Treatments And Technologies We Use To Treat Tension Headaches
There are many different ways to treat tension headaches, and it’s just as well because we don’t all respond to the same stuff.
The ultimate key to successful treatment of tension headaches is working with a team who are willing to take a sufficiently flexible approach, and trial a number of different therapies to see what works best on your specific case.
Low Energy Laser Therapy is the application of specific deeply penetrating light waves to a painful area. Light with a wavelength in the red to near infrared region of the spectrum (660nm–905nm) is generally employed because these wavelengths have the ability to penetrate skin, and soft/hard tissues. Lasers like these are known to trigger the release of a substance called ATP within cells, this suggests that they boost tissue metabolism in painful areas.
A great many clinical trials have shown this type of treatment has a meaningful effect on pain, inflammation and tissue repair. In our experience people with tension headaches often experience immediate improvements in their pain after laser sessions.
Shockwave Therapy is a non-surgical – non-drug-based – scientifically approved therapy that is widely used as a pain treatment. There have been literally hundreds of studies that support the use of shockwave therapy for a very wide range of pain complaints.
Shockwave Therapy was originally developed for its application as a non-invasive treatment of kidney stones. We use a gentler form of the same technology to break up deep muscle knots and tracts of scar tissue in the neck. For more information on shockwave therapy visit our shockwave homepage here.
Acupuncture can be used to relieve and ease tension headaches in many cases. Literally millions of people have reported success with this approach to treating their tension headaches.
The aim behind acupuncture as a treatment for tension headache is to reduce muscle spasms, increase blood flow and create a more harmonious exchange of information between the liver region and the neck region.
The painful points that you feel in certain points with deep tissue massage are called ‘myofascial trigger points. These painful points of tension and disturbance in the muscles can cause a great deal of pain.
Trigger points in the neck and jaw are a major factor in many cases of tension headaches. Releasing these points not only brings relief for many patients, often the tension headache can be felt to increase or ‘come on’ as they are worked upon.
Acupuncture aims to promote blood flow, release pressure points in muscle and reduce pain signals. Needles are placed very superficially around the area of pain and we generally leave them in for around 10 minutes, depending on your body’s tolerance to them. If acupuncture works for your neck pain, you will usually start to feel the benefits within the first 2-3 sessions.
A percentage of tension headaches relate to unresolved whiplash and sport type injuries to the neck and jaw. Many of the ‘old wounds’ we carry around have not been fully rehabilitated, as a society we are not that great at rehab.
Along with muscle wasting many of us develop tracts of scar tissue after an injury that can cause us problems in the long term. Using safe non-invasive scraping techniques and specific stretches, scar tissue can be broken down and re-modelled.
The small joints in the upper part of your neck are called ‘facet joints’. Facet joints are knuckle-sized cartilage joints that are richly innervated with sensory nerve endings and can be major pain generators if they aren’t happy.
Releasing and mobilising stiff inflamed spinal joints can be a huge helot many tension headache sufferers. If you suffer from tension headaches and periodic feelings of tension or discomfort in your neck you may be in need of spinal manipulation to free the joints.
One of the most common questions we get asked is whether heat or ice is better. Nine times out of ten ice is a better option than heat when you have pain. Heat can be a bit of a tricky one because it does often feel soothing at the time. Sometime after heat application however you may have more pain than you might otherwise have had..
Many of us hold untold tension in our jaws without even realising. If you have been told you grind your teeth at night it means you are a particularly extreme case.
Jaw clenching over time can lead to a build-up of stiffness and inflammation in the temporomandibular joint which is the ‘hinge’. Mobilising the joint if it has built up stiffness and stress can be of great benefit to tension headache sufferers.
Tension headaches have a significant emotional component in many cases. A significant percentage of tension headache sufferers for example are people who struggle to express frustration/anger and tend to let those feelings build up.
We don’t do this kind of therapy at Featherston Street Pain Clinic but consider ourselves to be excellent at identifying whether you might benefit from an increase in emotional resilience in the longer term. In these instances, we make gentle recommendations and can make referrals.
There is a range of exercise types that you may find that you need in order to get good longer-term outcomes for your tension headache issues. At Featherston Street Pain Clinic we aim to cover all bases when it comes to exercise prescription, this is because people’s needs vary greatly.
Some tension headache sufferers benefit from learning exercises that deeply stretch the soft tissues in the upper neck. Some tension headache sufferers need exercises to help them learn to stop clenching the muscles in their neck and jaw when they are stressed. Some tension headache sufferers benefit greatly in the longer term from strength-based postural exercises.
The release of chronically tight muscles is in some ways like the topic of exercise prescription, there are general rules of engagement but ultimately we all have our own unique requirements.
A percentage of tension headache sufferers find that the only way to release the muscle spasm in their neck/shoulders/jaw is with deep vibration. At Featherston Street Pain Clinic we use handheld mechanical massage devices to assist with the release of muscle spasms for that need this kind of technique in order to progress with their tension headache treatment.