Getting rid of your tension headache with trigger point dry needling
Tension headaches occur for a variety of reasons. Poor posturing over time, stress, and trigger points are often causes of these debilitating headaches. Most of us are familiar with poor posturing. We have been told since childhood to sit up straight. The fact of the matter is that most of us like to slump when we sit. Over time this can create weak core and upper back and neck muscles. This additional strain on the neck muscles over time can cause the tension headache. Stress can be good or bad. Some stress is good. Physical activity increases the stress on our bodies, which we respond to favorably. Stress and anxiety from working long hours in a stressful environment, coupled with lack of sleep and multiple other responsibilities can turn into bad stress. Many of us “carry our stress” in our shoulder and neck muscles, which in turn can cause tension headaches. Trigger points, on the other hand, can be the result of poor posturing, stress or injury. A trigger point is a taut band of muscle tissue that feels nodular with palpation and can cause pain not only where it is located but also to a referred area. The trapezius muscle will refer pain along the side of the head from the side and towards the front. This pain is termed cervicogenic pain or can also be termed a tension headache.
Trigger point dry needling along with soft tissue mobilization, relaxation, posture and therapeutic exercise for strengthening can help resolve the tension headaches. Dry needling is a technique that uses a “dry needle” without medication or injection which is inserted through the skin and into the trigger point. Normally you won’t feel the actual
insertion of the needle. When the trigger point is released you will feel a cramping or local twitch response. Dry needling uses acupuncture needles to perform the intervention, however, dry needling is not acupuncture. Dry needling was developed by a medical physician, Janet Travell, MD, in the United States and is well researched for evidence-based trigger point resolution. Acupuncture on the other hand is a practice that is based on traditional Chinese medicine and is used by many acupuncturists to help restore the energy flow through the body.
Dry needling is a very safe technique, however, there are some precautions that your medical professional will explain prior to the intervention. After the dry needling, you may feel sore for about a day or so and then this should resolve. Slight bruising is common. Often you would see immediate results with a decrease in the headache severity and duration. To help decrease any post treatment soreness, you should drink plenty of fluids and move around as much as possible while performing daily activities.
To get more information about dry needling and whether it would be beneficial to you, please contact your physical therapist at Alleghany Health Physical Therapy.
Ref: “Dry Needling by a Physical Therapist: What You Should Know”. APTA.org, Choose PT, 2020