The Role of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and migraines can seriously affect our ability to work and enjoy life. Painkillers offer temporary respite, but acupuncture for the relief of headaches aims to treat the underlying cause of the problem to provide a more lasting solution.

There is good quality research to show that acupuncture for headaches and migraine attacks can significantly reduce their intensity and frequency.

Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraine Pain

  • Pain and tension around the temples, head, and neck
  • Intense one-sided headache
  • Pain behind the eyes & sensitivity to light
  • Worse around the time of the period

Can acupuncture help with headaches?

A recent meta-analysis of acupuncture research has found very strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of acupuncture for tension headaches and migraines.

Tension headaches:

  • Headaches are generally described as mild to moderate
  • The pain usually feels heavy, tight, or dull
  • It’s often associated with neck or shoulder tension
  • Headaches can come in clusters, and during these times are frequent
  • Painkillers can relieve pain, but the long-term use risks stomach problems

How can acupuncture help with tension headaches?

An acupuncturist will ask detailed questions about the nature, location, and frequency of the headache. We also ask about other body systems and look for patterns, which help us to identify an underlying cause for the headache. Acupuncture can help with acute symptoms, but its real strength is in targeting the cause of the headaches and therefore acting to prevent them from arising rather than just relieving pain. 


Typical symptoms of migraine are:

  • Moderate to severe one-sided head pain
  • Lasting from few hours to a few days
  • Can be accompanied by photophobia and visual disturbance
  • Sometimes causes nausea and vomiting

They are more common in women than in men and often cause the sufferer to take time off work. Painkillers and other pharmaceutical drugs such as beta-blockers and antidepressants can be helpful, but all have side effects.

How can acupuncture help with migraines?

High-quality large-scale trials carried out in recent years have consistently found acupuncture to be as least as effective at preventing the onset of migraine as prophylactic medication, but with no side effects. The positive impact of acupuncture is explained by several factors:

  • Releasing endorphins which change perceptions of pain
  • Reducing inflammation by increasing blood flow
  • By affecting serotonin levels in the brain

Please take a look at the full research details