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Tension Headaches and Acupuncture

Tension Headaches and Acupuncture

Chronic Pain and Acupuncture

Tension headaches also called myogenic or muscle contraction headaches are the most common. The World Health Organization reports episodic tension headaches for 70% of some populations.

The vise-like grip of tension headaches: symptoms and characteristics

Tension headache pain is a result of muscle contraction in the head and neck with mild to moderate pain, like a tight vise-like band around the head. Other symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • dull, aching, heavy or intense pain in the head
  • sensations of pressure and tightness across the forehead, on the sides, or back of the head, or behind the eyes
  • tenderness and tightness in the neck and shoulder muscles

These headaches vary greatly in frequency, intensity, and duration. Many patients report pain that persists for months or years, despite trials of multiple medications.

If you get tension headaches, you will probably experience one of two main categories of tension headaches: episodic and chronic.

  • Episodic  tension headaches can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week and occur fewer than 15 days a month for at least 3 months. These are the most common form of tension headaches, usually occurring 2-3 times per month.
  • Chronic Tension Headaches can last hours and can go on continuously for long stretches of time.  Tension headaches are considered chronic if they last for more than 15 days a month for at least 3 months.

Tension headache or migraine?

While it can be difficult to distinguish frequent episodic tension headaches from migraines, and some individuals experience both, tension headaches do not have the visual disturbances and nausea associated with migraines. Additionally, migraines have a neurological component that is not observed with tension headaches.

What causes tension headaches?

Stress and lifestyle are the two biggest factors.

Tension headaches are usually precipitated by one or more of the common triggers listed below:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Working at a desk
  • Eye strain (staring at a computer screen for long periods)
  • Cold temperatures
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Fatigue
  • Cold or flu
  • Sinus infection
  • Poor posture

Traditional Five Element Acupuncture a natural therapy for tension headaches

Acupuncture treats tension headaches by relieving pain, relaxing targeted muscles and soothe the body’s stress response. We all respond to pain and stress differently and Traditional Five Element Acupuncture treats each person to their individual needs.

Acupuncture provides effective and lasting relief for tension headaches without the potential side effects of medications. The beauty of using acupuncture for tension headaches, addressing both the symptoms and the cause:

  1. Relieves pain naturally: acupuncture prompts your body to release natural painkillers. By inserting small needles into specific sites on the body, the needles trigger a response from the nervous system. This response from the nervous system leads our brain to release a cascade of natural painkillers (endorphins and enkephalins)
  2. Relaxes muscular tension: acupuncture needles signal the brain (via the nervous system) to direct blood flow to the affected areas. With increased blood flow in the head and neck, acupuncture helps relax the muscles there. This direction of blood flow addresses the physical mechanism causing the tension headache pain.
  3. Reduces stress and regulates the body’s stress response: this may be what best addresses the root of the tension headache problem. In doing so, it appears to bring heart rate variability into healthy ranges, reducing the experience of stress. Acupuncture also strengthens the brain’s executive function, helping you deal with stress without the physiologically taxing sympathetic nervous system (being in “fight-or-flight” mode).
  4. Looking at lifestyle factors : alongsidethe acupuncture treatmentencouragement, awareness and understanding given to help with stress, anxiety and how to manage out side influences such as work family, environmental factors and  general encouragement in self care.

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