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TCM Articles  

Acupuncture for Headaches

Date Published: 14 Oct, 2018

Mark from Haynes Acupuncture Gold Coast explains the pathomechanism of headaches.

Headaches are very common but this doesn’t make them something that you have to expect as normal.  They can have a debilitating effect on your daily life, making you unable to be your usual self.  When they become chronic, they can have a significant effect on your relationships, your work and your social life.

In Chinese Medicine, the treatment of headaches is always holistic and individualised. Different emotions, such as anger, sadness, shock and fear can all be the cause of headaches, and each one has its own particular presentation.  For example, if you are prone to worry, it is said to knot Lung and Spleen Qi in the body and the headaches may present as dull headaches on the forehead or on the top of the head.  Anger or resentment can cause Liver Qi to rise up and cause headaches on the temples or on the side of the head.

Other common causes are external pathogens (such as the cold or flu virus), poor posture, overwork, being depleted after childbirth, the food you are eating, unstable blood sugar levels; and for women, headaches may be related to your menstrual cycle. Stress can cause tension-type headaches which have the characteristic tight band-like pressure around the head.

There is evidence to show that acupuncture is effective in the prevention and management of tension headaches (1).   In 2016, a systematic review examined the evidence from 12 randomized trials.  In two large trials, acupuncture added to usual care resulted in 48 in 100 participants having headache frequency at least halved, compared to 17 of 100 participants given usual care only.  In six of the other trials, acupuncture was compared to ‘fake’ acupuncture, and results were similar in that 48 out of 100 patients saw their headache frequency halved, and the effects were still evident six months later.

Written by Mark Sargeant – Acupuncturist at Haynes Acupuncture


  1. Linde K, Allais G, Brinkhaus B, Fei Y, Mehring M, Bc S, et al. Acupuncture for the prevention of tension-type headache ( Review ). Cochrane database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2016;(4). Available from:

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