treatments
Acupuncture For Headaches

Chronic headaches – acupuncture can help

It’s official – acupuncture can help with chronic tension type headaches!

If you have ever had a really bad headache you will know how debilitating it can be.  Sometimes the pain can make it hard to function, drive or get on with daily tasks. If you have these types of headaches frequently or chronically it can really make it hard to just exist. Holding down a job or studying could be virtually impossible.

A GP’s Choice

Acupuncture for headaches

Acupuncture for headaches

The NHS works with a body called NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Care Excellence). NICE produces a list of treatments for health conditions and GP’s use this list when deciding what to offer you by way of treatment.

NICE has recently added acupuncture as a treatment that is appropriate for chronic tension type headaches.   They have reviewed the research and decided that if you have chronic tension type headaches acupuncture would be worth a try.

The bad news is that you are unlikely to get this treatment on the NHS but will have to pay privately. We run a low cost acupuncture clinic every Wednesday from 11am to 5pm.  If you suffer from chronic tension type headaches ask your GP to refer you and come along for acupuncture.

The Research

There are about 30 studies quoted in the NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries – click here to see the list. If you don’t have team to read them all here are some highlights!

  •  NICE recommend a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture over 5–8 weeks. There is some evidence from single-blind studies that acupuncture reduces the number of headache days compared with sham acupuncture. Although evidence was of low quality, the NICE Guideline Development Group agreed that, because they found very little evidence to support the use of pharmacological prophylaxis, this evidence was sufficient to recommend its use [NICE, 2012].
  • A Cochrane review including 12 trials (n=2,349) concluded that acupuncture may be considered for treating frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches [Linde, 2016].
  • Acupuncture was compared with routine care of acute headaches in two large trials (1265 and 207 participants). The proportion with at least 50% reduction in headache frequency was higher in groups receiving acupuncture than in control groups (trial 1: 48% versus 19% [RR 2.5: 95% CI 2.1–3.0]; trial 2: 45% versus 4% [RR 11: 95% CI 3.7–35]).
  • Acupuncture was compared with sham acupuncture in seven trials; five large studies provided data for one or more meta-analyses. Among participants receiving acupuncture, 51% had at least 50% reduction of headache frequency compared to 43% in the sham group after treatment (RR 1.3 [95% CI 1.09–1.5]).
  • CKS recognizes that in many areas there may be restrictions on commissioning acupuncture services [DTB, 2010]. It should also be noted that the evidence reviewed by NICE was for the traditional Chinese medicine approach to acupuncture [NICE, 2012], whereas many GPs, nurses, and physiotherapists in the NHS use medical acupuncture rather than the traditional Chinese medicine approach [DTB, 2010].
  • The British Association for the Study of Headache (BASH) state in their guideline on headache that the role of acupuncture is unproven but it may be worth trying in the absence of other options [BASH, 2010].

In a nutshell – if you have recurring headaches get them checked out by your GP. If they can’t find a cause then acupuncture may help.


Phoenix Health & Wellbeing is a Charity. When you come to us for a treatment you will be helping us to support people who have chronic health issue and low income.  We use the proceeds of your treatment to subsidise those who would not otherwise be able to access our therapies. Roughly £3 to every £10 spent with us will go to help others.

Phoenix Health and Wellbeing offers excellent massage therapies in Leeds City Centre with therapists who are fully qualified, insured and members of relevant professional bodies. Click here to find out more

Opening times:

Monday to Thursday: 10:00 to 20:00

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 to 16:00

Sunday closed.