Acupuncture South East logo



Headaches & Migraines

80% of UK adults suffer with headaches and they are more prevalent in women. It is one of the most frequent reasons for medical consultations. The origin of tension-type headaches is still unclear. Migraines manifest as recurring attacks, usually lasting for 4 to 72 hours and involving pain of moderate to severe intensity.

The aim of conventional treatment is to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of headache, with minimal adverse effects from treatment. Prescribed and over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are taken to alleviate headaches. Many people with migraines can be adequately treated when the attacks occur, but some need prophylactic interventions, as their attacks are either too frequent or are insufficiently controlled in this way. Several drugs, such as beta-blockers, amitriptyline or sodium valproate, are used in the prophylaxis of migraine in an attempt to reduce attack frequency, but all these drugs are associated with adverse effects.

In general, research shows that acupuncture activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which initiates the relaxation response, thus promoting physical and emotional wellbeing. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress.

Acupuncture can help in the treatment of headaches and migraines by:

  • Providing pain relief - by stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, acupuncture leads to release of endorphins and other neurochumoral factors and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord.
  • Reducing inflammation - by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.
  • Reducing the degree of cortical spreading depression (an electrical wave in the brain associated with migraine) and plasma  levels of calcitonin gene-related peptide and substance P (both implicated in the pathophysiology of migraine).
  • Affecting serotonin (5-hydroxytriptamine) levels in the brain. (Serotonin may be linked to the initiation of migraines; 5-HT agonists (triptans) are used against acute attacks.)

NICE Guidelines
NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) has issued a recommendation that GPs should recommend a course of 10 sessions of acupuncture for the prevention of chronic headaches, tension headaches and migraine. Acupuncture is the only proven effective treatment for the prevention of tension headache and Migraine headache.

It is vital that you report any sudden, new onset headache or any worsening of headaches or other symptoms to your doctor. Even if you frequently get headaches but you have a new symptom, e.g. fever, neck stiffness, confusion, other neurological symptoms, your doctor should be informed so that she can test and provide an accurate diagnosis.

Symptom Guide

Tension headaches:

  • Responsive to acupuncture
  • These are generally frequently occurring headaches affecting the head and neck, often with associated stress symptoms such as tense shoulders and muscles. These headaches, while strong, are not as severe as migraine or cluster headaches. They generally last approximately half an hour to one hour.

Migraine headaches:

  • Responsive to acupuncture
  • These are typically one sided headaches and can be associated with one or more of the following symptoms:- facial numbness and tingling, flashing lights preceding headache, photophobia (aversion to light), sudden loss of vision. It is possible to have migraines without a headache.

Cluster Headaches:

  • Responsive to acupuncture
  • These are the most severe of all headaches. These extreme headaches affect one eye, generally with stabbing/boring pain. These headaches come in clusters so that they happen frequently over a course of days, weeks or months, and then suddenly vanish for prolonged periods before returning. They can be accompanied by the following symptoms:- extreme restlessness and agitation, one-sided reversible facial paralysis, watering eyes, extreme mood disturbance (including suicidal thoughts).

Chronic daily headaches:

  • Responsive to acupuncture
  • These can be chronic tension headaches or chronic migraine. They happen every day or every other day for weeks, months or years.

Hormonal headaches:

  • Responsive to acupuncture
  • These headaches are associated with the menstrual cycle, usually just before or after the period. These are also associated with the contraceptive pill, in which case you should report this to your doctor and discuss alternatives.

Post trauma headache:

  • Responsive to acupuncture (check with doctor first to rule out serious complications)
  • A trauma is any bang to the head. Besides accidents or acts of violence, this can also happen as a result of banging one’s head against a car door, kitchen cupboard etc. These headaches are often associated with loss of concentration and difficulty getting on with normal chores. One must rule out any damage to the skull or blood vessels.

woman acupuncture headache migraine

man acupuncture headache migraine


Acupuncture South East Small Logo 

        Acupuncture South East ©

Acupuncture South East - Acupuncture Treatments - Pregnancy Massage - Price Guide - About Acupuncture - Blog - Site Map - T&Cs - Contact

Qualified acupuncture & massage practice treating stress, anxiety, depression, migraine, arthritis, back & muscular pain, fertility & menopause in
Hastings and St Leonards, Bexhill, Eastbourne and Battle in East Sussex..