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Acupuncture wins backing in first national headache guidelines

The NICE guideline suggests the use of acupuncture in treating tension-type headaches.

The guideline, published today, reveals that one person in 50 people experiences headaches as a result of overusing painkillers – which can reduce the medication’s effectiveness and cause further pain.

It also recommends a number of treatment options, including the use of acupuncture, and highlights the importance of correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.


Titled Headaches: diagnosis and management of headaches in young people and adults, the NICE report says healthcare professionals should consider offering patients a course of up to 10 sessions of acupuncture, administered over a period of from five to eight weeks, for the prophylactic treatment of chronic tension-type headaches.

Physiotherapist Paul Battersby, a senior lecturer in acupuncture and director of the Acupuncture Association of Chartered Physiotherapists (AACP), welcomed the report.

‘These new recommendations confirm the AACP’s long held view - supported by positive evidence - that the use of acupuncture for tension type headaches achieves beneficial results,’ Mr Battersby said.

Improvement rate

‘Half of patient responders report a 50 per cent improvement in their condition after a course of acupuncture.

‘The medical profession unarguably have effective treatments for correctly diagnosed common headache types, and with this new guideline and informed discussions with patients, as healthcare providers we can help break the vicious cycle patients often get themselves into by taking more and more medication.’

Mr Battersby added that acupuncture merited greater consideration for the treatment of headaches because it was associated with 'fewer risks, fewer side-effects, and is also cost-effective’. 

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