Tension type headaches are one of the most common type of headaches in the United States. It receives much less attention from healthcare professionals and researchers than migraine does. In fact, with the increase in stress to the neck and head with our postures at computer and other handheld devices now, the tension through the muscles of the neck and head can be higher than ever before.
Myofascial pain may play an important role in how headaches begin with tension-type headaches. It has been claimed that pain from the pericranial head, neck, and shoulder muscles is associated with the head and experienced as headache. This means that input from myofascial structures in places other than the location of your headache may be the reason for your headache.
Several muscles through myofascial trigger points can refer pain to the head. This includes the sternocleidomastoid, the upper trapezius, the temporalis, the masseter, and the suboccipital muscles (ones just below the skull).
The treatment for tension type headaches in physical therapy can include relaxation exercises, mobilization of the joints, myofascial release of the soft tissues and muscles and education on how to reduce stress and anxiety. Dry Needling can also be used to treat tension type headaches.
In 2019, a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group trial, aimed to explore the effectiveness of trigger point dry needling in patients with chronic tension-type headache in reducing headache frequency, intensity and duration, and improvement of health-related quality of life.
In the dry needling group, intensity, frequency and duration of headache and were significantly improved after treatment.
The results of this clinical trial suggest that trigger point dry needling in patients with chronic tension-type headache is effective and safe in reducing headache intensity, frequency and duration, and increasing health-related quality of life.
If you are having headaches and consider stress, anxiety and referral pain to your head pushing on different muscles in your neck and shoulders, you may be a good candidate for skilled dry needling services.
Dr. Harrison Vaughan is a physical therapist and co-owner of PhysioFit of North Carolina who performs dry needling, alongside other services, to help those suffering from headaches. Feel free to reach out to the practice to determine if you are a candidate for these services.