What you need to know about tension headaches

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What you need to know about tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common types of reported headaches that usually consist of a dull ache in the head coupled with tenderness in ones scalp, neck and shoulder muscles. It’s often also described as having a sensation of pressure or tightness reaching the sides and the back of the head as well as the forehead.

Types of Headaches

Although the root cause isn’t yet fully understood, doctors have placed tension headaches into two separate categories.

The first being Episodic Tension Headache which can last between 30 minutes and one week. This type of tension headache often occurs less than 15 days in a given month during a 3-month span but these types of headaches can become chronic.

The second categorized headache is a Chronic Tension Headache; this type lasts hours and may continue into several days. Victims of chronic tension headaches occur for more than 15 days in a given month and may last up to 3 months at any given time.

How are chronic migraines different than tension headaches?

It’s important to note that tension headaches differ from migraines but can often be difficult to differentiate between the two. Migraines are characterized by recurrent attacks, mostly one-sided, and can be described as severe headache. Often are accompanied by vision changes, nausea and vomiting and are usually made worse with physical activity. Chronic migraines occur at least 15 days per month to meet the criteria for diagnosis of migraine.

These migraine type-headaches can be caused by a number of items including stress, food allergies or intolerances, head injuries and so on.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches typically are on both sides of the head and most likely due to underlying stress and tight upper neck muscles (but other factors should be considered).

It is interesting to note that the most common recommendation for treatment of tension-type headaches is antidepressants such as amitriptyline. However, more recently Western Medicine is recommending behavioral interventions such as relaxation or biofeedback as adjunctive intervention tools.

As we see in our practice, tension-headaches, and especially chronic migraines, are often debilitating, affect work, exercise, and decrease quality of life.

There are safe, effective, and natural solutions to ease tension headaches.

Let’s explore!

How can acupuncture help tension headaches?

Acupuncture and Tension Headaches

Acupuncture is used to treat headaches through the act of needle stimulation. As the needle stimulates the nerve, hormones such as endorphins are released from your brain throughout your body which then stimulates your immune and circulatory system.  Studies claim that this is what relieves migraines and tension headaches.

Acupoints for Headaches

LI-4 – also known as “Union Valley” or He Gu, is the acupuncture point in the “fleshy” area between your index finger and thumb. It can be used to address many conditions, including stress, neck pain, headaches, allergies, stuffy nose, eye problems, toothaches and it can even improve your immunity. This point is also used to promote labor, so it should not be used when pregnant.

Drilling Bamboo- Located in the indentations on either side of the spot near the bridge of the nose where it meets the eye brows. Apply pressure to both points in this area with your index fingers for 10 seconds at a time.

Gates of Consciousness- Place your index fingers at the base of the skull in the parallel hollow areas between the neck muscles that run vertically. Press firmly upwards on both sides of the neck for 10 seconds at a time to relieve headache pain.

Foods to Avoid in tension headaches

If tension headaches are a factor in your life, a list of foods to avoid are as follows:

Chocolate

Dairy products

Peanut butter

Nuts

Fermented and/or pickled foods

Cheese

Onions

Meats such as bacon, hotdogs, salami and cured meats

Food and headache connection

If you notice any of these foods aggravating your condition, you may way to remove the above foods from your diet and slowly work them back into your diet, if any of them start causing you headaches, it’s recommended to no longer eat that food.

Due note that there is a difference between food intolerance and food allergies and if not address or identified can lead to further inflammation.

At Starting Point, we help people find the right meal and nutrition plan that suits them, even addressing and testing for food allergies to see if that maybe leading to their symptoms.

To get the complete guide to understanding how inflammation can lead to health issues, including headaches, get Dr. Ellie’s Anti-inflammatory Kickstart Plan here.

Contact our office at (425) 686-4498 to schedule your consult today with Dr. Heintze today to learn how we can help! Telehealth/virtual visits are available now!


Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist in Bothell, WA at her practice Starting Point Acupuncture. She is a pain specialist, seeing people who suffer from chronic pain, migraines, as well as digestive issues. Offering pain relief injections, acupuncture, facial rejuvenation, and nutrition consults. Telehealth Virtual consults available. Dr. Ellie Heintze is also the author of the book, A Starting Point Guide to Going Gluten-Free on Amazon. 


Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tension-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20353977

https://www.healthline.com/health/pressure-points-for-headaches#7

http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000074

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092807

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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

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