How We Treat Tension Headaches At Featherston Street Pain Clinic

Our 3 Step Treatment Process

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. Some are happy to simply take a pill, while others feel a strong impulse to try and resolve their tension headaches completely.

The key to effective management and relief of tension headache in most cases is working with a team who are willing to take a sufficiently flexible approach. Trialling a number of different therapies to see what works best for your specific case is a good approach. 

Longer term management of tension headaches occasionally requires more than just the right ‘treatments’. Stress management, lifestyle adjustments, postural correction, trigger avoidance and even dietary tweaks are often necessary. Coaching for these important changes in those who want to make them is a big part of what we do.

Step One

Pain Management

Step Two

Lifestyle Adjustments

Step Three

Rehabilitation And Prevention

Step One - Pain Management

The first step towards managing your tension headaches more effectively is perhaps unsurprisingly finding some pain relief. Some people attend our clinic because they are struggling with a very bad tension headache that won’t shift, others because they have just simply had enough of their tension headaches; in either case our top priority is pain relief. We use combinations of ‘hands on’ treatments like those listed below to try and reduce your pain as quickly as possible.

We are all individuals! There is A LOT of variation when it comes how quickly tension headaches reduce once they are getting the right treatment. Our standard approach is to try and gain momentum with frequent weekly treatments at first, then gradually taper the frequency as your tension headache symptoms reduce.

Step Two - Lifestyle Adjustments

Work activities, work stations, stress, sleep position, teeth grinding, diet, posture, and the way you exercise can all be major ingredients in the tension headache relief recipe. In most cases, tension headaches are ‘your body trying to tell you something.

Our extensive knowledge of how lifestyle factors can impact the likelihood of tension headache headaches enables us to offer coaching and feedback on how to make changes that reduce the likelihood of your tension headaches returning.

Step Three - Rehabilitation And Prevention

If you are completely fed up with having tension headaches some longer-term action may be required to keep them at bay. Rehabilitation and prevention are our favorite topics. Tensions can be influenced by chronic postural issues, chronic stress-related movement patterns, or old injuries, there may be exercises that you need to do to resolve these.

Some exercises for tension headaches are those that stretch and mobilise tension and scar tissue in the neck and jaw. Some other people have a need for exercises that ‘teach ‘them how to not clench their neck and jaw when they are stressed. A percentage of tension headache sufferers also require exercises to strengthen their postural muscles.

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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.

Our 5 Pain Treatment Fundamentals

Hands On Treatments

We are in the business of helping you get out of pain. The beating heart of our clinical process is a committed and very hands on approach to getting you out of pain as quickly, painlessly and safely as possible. We are willing to use a wide range of tools and also to work tirelessly in our efforts to get you out of pain.

Flexible Treatment Approach

Even among professionals there is little agreement on the best ways to treat pain. If there is one thing that we know for certain about pain management though, it’s that a flexible multidisciplinary treatment approach to tension headache pain is best. This is why we take such great care to provide the most diverse range of pain relief tools possible under one roof.

Get To The Bottom Of It

The human body seldom if ever generates pain for no reason. Pain is a highly organised and intelligent form of feedback that we have evolved over millions of years. In other words if you have pain it will be for a good reason. We always strive to find the deepest possible explanation for your pain so that you have the best possible chance of preventing it in the longer term.

Excellent Communication

Unlike a one-off filling at the dentist, successfully relieving most headaches is a process. A process that often requires commitment, trust and clear communication. We believe that clear and open communication combined with genuine rapport is fundamental within our arsenal of pain management tools.

Assume Nothing 

Just because a treatment has worked for us a thousand times before; doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to work on you! Pain management is not a ‘1 size fits all’ moment in life. We monitor our patients’ response to treatment very closely. This approach enables us to make agile treatment protocols that can be altered in real time should we find that you aren’t responding to the tools and techniques that we expected to work for you.