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Acupuncture for headaches backed by facts and evidence

Headache is a common disorder that many are familiar with and it’s one of the most common pain complaint to seek for medical care. Head, face or neck are the areas where headache may occur and the sign and symptoms can present in various forms such as throbbing sensation, sharp pain constant pressure and a dull ache. There are many types of headaches, which is beyond the scope of this relatively short blog post, but the common types include: Tension headache, Cluster headache, Migraine headache, allergy or sinus headache, hormone headache (known as menstrual migraine) and post traumatic headache.

The use of acupuncture treatment for headache has been studied for decades, and the results are positive. In 2003, The World Health Organization (WHO) published a review and analysis of Acupuncture reports on controlled clinical trials [1]. Acupuncture reports have shown good evidence to reduce different types of pain related conditions which also include headaches.

Furthermore, in 2012 the United Kingdom National institute of Health has recommended a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5 to 8 weeks for the prophylactic treatment of chronic tension‑type headache. These guidelines were updated in 2021 and Acupuncture was remained part of it [2].

How does Chinese medicine view headaches?

From holistic point of view, headache is considered a symptom of an underlying disharmony which may represent a pattern of imbalance. When treating a patient with a headache (or any type of disease) I always seek to treat both the branch & root. In this specific example the area of pain in the head will represent the branch while the root will be according to the imbalance that each individual may have which include:

  1. Stagnation which may cause throbbing or sharp pain.
  2. Blood deficiency which may cause dull or throbbing pain that get worse during or after mensuration.
  3. Exterior or interior damp condition which may lead to heavy feeling of the head.
  4. Deficiency in general which lead to constant dull headache accompanying with fatigue.
  5. Essence deficiency which lead to hormonal imbalance, gynecological disharmony and headache.

Here are some non-chemical advices that can help you with a headache:

  1. Do Acupuncture! The UK national institute recommend Acupuncture for tension type headache. In the 2016 Cochrane Library, a systematic review about Migraine was published and the authors concluded that adding Acupuncture to symptomatic treatment of migraine attacks reduces the frequency of headaches. Thus, acupuncture can be considered a treatment option for patients willing to undergo this treatment [3].
  2. Acupuncture treatment is not only a fantastic therapeutic modality for migraine headache, it also showed in a large scale nationwide cohort study in Taiwan that it can reduce medical expenditure [4]. Migraine affects 18% of women and 6% of men and causing great disability. There is no cure for migraine but only a temporary symptom relief. Acupuncture is a great non-chemical with no sides effects that can treat migraine successfully and the underline reason causing the disharmony as well.
  3. The use of essential oils can be very helpful also in adults. Always use base oil (almond, olive, coconut oils and more) and put few drops of the following essential oils: 1. Mint if your pain is throbbing or sharp; Eucalyptus if the pain feels like heavy and in the sinus area; Lavender if you’re in great stress. Gentle massage in the temporal or frontal pat of the head with the oils can relief your pain greatly.
  4. You don’t like massage, no problem! Inhaling the essential oils can also reduce your pain so just smell the associated oil. Moreover, steam inhalation with the oils can help to some sort of headaches.
  5. Doing physical exercise regularly is great for both physical and mental wellbeing, can reduce stress and improve circulation in the upper back and neck area. Swimming is recommended but any type of sports will do the job.


  1. World Health Organization (2002) Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials. World Health Organization, Geneva.
  3. Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, et al. Acupuncture for the prevention of episodic migraine. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2016. CD001218.
  4. Acupuncture reduced the medical expenditure in migraine patients: Real-world data of a 10-year national cohort study. Medicine 99(32):p e21345, August 07, 2020.



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