PAIN mechanisms in headache & migraine

With Tim Wright - Gower Acupuncture Swansea

If I had a gun pointed at my head and someone was to ask me what is acupuncture best at treating. I’d reply without hesitating “headaches and migraines”…. Well I may have hesitated a bit as acupuncture is great for general pain management as well, but headaches and migraine respond the best in my opinion.

But what triggers headaches in the first place?

Headache pain may be due to a number of mechanisms happening at a local level:

Vasoconstriction squeezes blood vessels, increasing blood pressure leading to pain in the head. The quickest and easiest way to dilate vasoconstriction is to exercise. Antihistamines, decongestants and stimulants such as caffeine should all be avoided due to their vasoconstrictive effects.

Trigger points are irritable spots found in taught bands of muscle that create pain and other symptoms including dizziness, nausea and tinnitus. Often with my headache patients I’ll find a number of trigger points in the head, neck and sometimes face. When de-activated the pain disappears.

Impinged nerve.
Strange sensations such as numbness, tingling or an inability to feel things properly may suggest that there is some element of nerve damage. Discovering why the nerve has become damaged; from impingement or irritation is key here.

Any of these injuries above can stimulate sensory receptors called nociceptors which pass input via the central nervous system to the brain to be processed. Pain is only perceived when a threshold is exceeded in the brain. Effective treatment relies on working out how much pain is caused by the injured area versus how much by a brain operating with a low pain threshold. Different answers to these questions result in different acupuncture treatments, even for headaches that present in apparently similar fashion.

Sometimes acupuncture needs to be applied in parallel with adjustments in lifestyle factors; diet, stress levels, exposure to toxins, sleep etc. In fact, some of these factors are the entire trigger for some headache, migraine and pain patterns.

These factors, and more, are investigated further in my newly written 65 page booklet (pictured above), “Get Your Head back”. Download it here to learn more about your headaches and how to treat them.



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