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Acupuncture and severe headaches

Q:  My husband is suffering from cluster headaches;  severe headaches the cause is unknown to medicine. Every 3-4 months he wakes up in pain in the early morning for a period of 1-2 weeks.  Then they go as suddenly as they came. We have done all tests but there is nothing wrong with him physically. Do you think acupuncture can help?

A:  The evidence for the use of acupuncture to treat cluster headaches is improving but still a long way short of a quality which could allow us to make an unequivocal recommendation. However, the current NICE guidelines for the treatment of cluster headaches in young people, which have slightly different criteria for inclusion, make a good case for recommending up to 10 sessions of acupuncture as a treatment
 
http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/live/13901/60853/60853.pdf
 
Much of the research for the use of acupuncture treatment for headaches focuses on migraine, maonly because it is easier to define and therefore easier to set clear outcome measures. As you say, cluster headaches are not so well understood from a conventional medical perspective, and the relatively small number of treatment options reflects this.
 
Acupunture treatment is based on the principles of Chinese medicine which have been developed over 2000 years, and there are many different ways of understanding headaches based on their location, frequency, and severity. A skilled practitioner will often find other signs and symptoms which underpin a specific diagnosis, and the fixed point and severe nature of the pain suggest a few very specific alternatives within a Chinese medicine understanding.
 
However, each patient from a CM perspective is regarded as unique and different, and so with conditions like this which are not so well understood, it is always best to seek the advice of a BAcC member local to you based on a face to face assessment of what is going on. This will give you a very much clearer sense of what could be achieved.
 
It is very important that if your husband goes ahead there are very clear review periods and where possible a clear outcome measure to help assess what progress has been made. 
 
 

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