Can acupuncture reduce tension headaches?

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If you are one of the nearly 1.4 billion people that suffer regularly from tension-type headaches, give our office a call today (425) 686-4498 to set-up your initial consultation.

Natural relief from Headaches

Acupuncture for Tension Headaches

Did you know that tension headaches are the most common type of primary headache?

The World Health Organization reported that 1.7-4% of the world’s adult population suffers from chronic headache. They define it as occurring 15 or ore days per month.

Chronic migraine treatments

What are tension headaches?

Tension headaches are not as debilitating as migraines but often occur more frequently. They are reported to be the most common type experienced. Tension headaches are often described as having episodes of pain, typically on both sides of their head, mild to moderate intensity, and typically is not associated with nausea or sensitivity to light. Stress tends to be the biggest cause. Those who suffer from them, frequently report a feeling of their head being squeezed, with pressure around the forehead, temples, and back of the head or neck. Tension headaches can last for as short as 30 minutes or they could linger for days.

Most often patients are prescribed antidepressants, NSAIDs, or referred to counseling. Often patient report still experiencing headaches after standard recommendations.

Acupuncture treatment

Dr. Heintze providing integrative care for chronic conditions such as migraine pain and tension headaches.

Can acupuncture help tension headaches?


There has been multiple studies showing acupuncture can provide not only short-term relief but long-term relief as well as prevention.

Many research studies are proving acupuncture can help ease symptoms associated with chronic tension headaches. One of these studies published by the Cochrane Library concluded a course of six acupuncture treatments can be a viable option in the treatment of “tension-type headaches”. According to the study, participants treated with acupuncture and pain-killers reported their headache frequency was less. This study was actually a compilation of several acupuncture trials. A total of 12 trials met the criteria to be included in this conclusive study. Acupuncture was also compared to several other modalities such as massage and physiotherapy, but the findings were inconclusive.

What is thought to be the cause?

While the exact cause is still not clear, they are most commonly attributed to muscle tension or spasms of the head, face, scalp, or jaw. Tension headaches are considered chronic if a person experiences them 15 or more days per month for several months. The most common treatment is over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen or aspirin.  Severe cases are sometimes treated with prescription drugs, but they tend to fail because they do not address the root cause of the headaches.

How can acupuncture and integrative medicine help?

Traditional Chinese Medicine is known for locating and treating the root cause of any ailment, including tension headaches. One of the ways TCM treats the root is by identifying personal triggers that lead to symptoms. The licensed acupuncturist plays the role of a detective when treating patients.  Acupuncturists usually ask multiple questions regarding the symptoms of any illness, including tension-type headaches. This allows for proper diagnosis and treatments. This can also give the patient insight into why the headaches keep occurring and how they can eliminate some of the triggers.

Read Dr. Heintze’s previous post on headache prevention

Acupuncture itself provides relief with a great deal of success. As few as one or two needles can be sufficient in stopping tension-type headaches. Acupuncture is also very effective at providing relief from stress and anxiety, two of the most common triggers of tension-type headaches. By adding in integrative medicine treatments, the patient then has the tools needed to counter oncoming headaches on a long-term basis. The acupuncture treatments then become a type of maintenance to keep the headaches at bay.

If you suffer from headaches and not finding relief from standard therapies. Give our office a call today at (425) 686-4498 to set-up your initial consultation to learn more about how we can help.

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She specializes in chronic and complex cases and commonly treats neuropathy, fibromyalgia, migraines, autoimmune, and infertility cases. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free  and Keep Calm and Zen Out available on Amazon.


Call or Schedule Now! (425) 686-4498

Call or Schedule Now!

(425) 686-4498

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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