Heading back to school can be a fun time, but it can also be a stressful time. When you are going through a stressful period in your life, headaches are far from welcome. Welcome or not, tension headaches are a common fact of life. About three quarters of the population have reported having them. They can be infrequent happening in an episode from time to time. Or unfortunately they can be chronic, occurring more than 15 days a month for 3 months. And more times than not, people treat these headaches with medication, either over the counter (OTC) or prescription.
Tension headache symptoms include:
- Pain that starts at the back of head and spreads forward
- Dull pressure, aching or squeezing sensation in the head
- Muscles of neck, shoulders and jaw may be tight and sore
- Both sides of head are affected equally
- May cause a decrease in appetite and a difficulty sleeping
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to what causes a tension headache. Some researchers believe it to be from tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, jaw and scalp. According to studies, a change in the neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) may be the cause. However, it’s not clear whether the chemical change causes tight muscles resulting in tension headaches or the tight muscles change the chemicals in the brain resulting in tension headaches.
Despite that uncertainty, some common triggers to tension headaches have been discussed:
- Eye strain
- Keeping your head in a position for a long time (for example, working on a computer, looking down at a tablet, microscope or book)
- Skipping meals
- Sleeping in an awkward position
- Clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth
- Head or neck injury
- Too much caffeine or withdrawal from caffeine
- Alcohol use
Although some of the triggers can clearly be avoided, others such as stress may not be as easily avoided. At this point, heading for the medicine cabinet may seem appealing but treating headaches as they occur with medication can lead to overuse of medication. This can be counterproductive, as overuse leads to headaches, among other side effects. An effective, drug-free alternative is to treat tension headaches with acupuncture.
Traditional acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The treatment consists of the practitioner inserting fine needles in specific parts of the body. The goal according to TCM is to balance the energy or qi (pronounced “CHEE”) that flows through the body along certain pathways. It is the unbalanced energy or blocked pathways that lead to health problems, such as headaches.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can result in lasting relief of tension headaches. It stimulates the body’s natural pain relieving response, the release of endorphins. Acupuncture also increases serotonin levels in the body that helps to suppress the stimulation of nerve signals that express pain.
Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation offers acupuncture as a treatment in a convenient location for residents of Monmouth County. Our highly skilled practitioner is experienced with examining and treating tension headaches. Patients have reported both immediate and long-lasting relief of headaches following the acupuncture treatment.
Helping with homework and projects night after night, sitting in school traffic for hours, rushing the preparation of meals and taking your children to and from practices is here to stay for a while. Be proactive about your stress and pain management when it comes to headaches and give Monmouth Pain and Rehabilitation a call at 732-345-1377. In addition to acupuncture, feel free to ask questions about the other services we offer such as chiropractic, massage and physical therapy treatments.