Do you know that the most common type of headache in North America is the tension headache? Although this type of headache is not as debilitating as a migraine, it can still interfere with your daily life. Often we just ‘put up with’ this type of headache or try to quench it with over the counter medications such as ibuprofen.
What are the signs of a Tension Headache?
With this type of headache it feels as if the pain or tension starts at back of your head and moves forward. Often you may feel it start to take hold after staying in one position for a long time, such as when you’re working at a computer.
It can also be brought on by increased stress levels, and in some cases by changes in hormone levels (most often for women during menstrual cycles or pre-menopause and menopause).
The signs of a tension headache can also include soreness or tightness in your jaw, neck, shoulders and a dull pressure pain that can feel like a tight band around the head. Some people can feel it creeping up on them over a period of time. This type of headache usually affects both sides of the head and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days at a time.
What causes Tension Headaches?
The cause has traditionally been blamed on tightness and muscle tension in the shoulders, neck and scalp. Newer theories suggest that tension headaches may be caused by changes in brain chemicals called neuro-transmitters (including seratonin). This may be similar to what happens with migraine headaches. Muscle tightness may still be a factor, either as a trigger or as an effect of these changes to brain chemicals.
How can Acupuncture help?
Traditional Chinese Medicine treats this type of headache according to the particular combination of signs and symptoms that each person presents. Stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, poor eating habits, and eye strain are all things which are considered as part of the root cause for this type of headache. These factors may also be causing havoc with other systems in your body. We take into account if you grind your teeth and whether you may have slept poorly in a bad position, or if you have been working long hours on your computer.
There are specific acupuncture points to treat headaches, but treatments are also customized based on which organ systems and channels are the most involved. For one person this may be more about high levels of stress, but with someone else it could be about long term fatigue due to poor digestion and not getting enough nutrients from their diet.
A Holistic Approach to Pain Relief
Acupuncture is one part of the approach towards lasting relief. Along with a series of acupuncture treatments, we may suggest useful tips for lifestyle shifts such as:
- relaxation techniques (such as mindful breath or guided meditation)
- improving quality of sleep
- improving diet and fluid intake
- quitting smoking
More than just stopping your headache, acupuncture aims to treat the cause at a deeper level – and avoid more pain in the future.