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Tension-Type Headaches

Signs and symptoms:

Tension-type headache is the term used for infrequent and frequent episodic, as well as chronic, tension-type headaches. This type of headache is primary (i.e. the headache itself is the disorder, rather than secondary to another condition). Tension-type headaches are characterised by pain that is typically mild or moderate in intensity, bilateral, and pressing or tightening in quality, but does not worsen with physical activity. There may be accompanying photophobia or phonophobia, but no nausea. The headaches are daily or very frequent, and last from minutes to days.

Are tension-type headaches common?

  • Less than 2% of the population have never had a headache.
  • Headaches are one of the most frequent reasons for medical consultations, in both general practice and neurology clinics.
  • They occur in up to around 80% of the UK adult population, and are more prevalent in women (65% of cases in one survey).
  • Symptoms begin before the age of 10 years in 15% of people with chronic tension-type headache, and prevalence declines with age.
  • There is a family history of some form of headache in 40% of people with chronic tension-type headache.

What are the causes?

Tension-type headaches can be caused by tightness in the muscles at the back of the neck and over the scalp. The underlying causes include anything which makes those muscles tense for example;

Emotional Stress and Anxiety

  • Anger, tension, worry, shock, depression, excitement

Physical Stress

  • Poor posture. This places greater strain on muscles of the neck and shoulders.

  • Muscle imbalances or faulty movement patterns. These result in certain muscles becoming overworked and tight.

  • Increased sitting / lack of physical activity. This increases stiffness of the muscles and joints.

  • Tiredness - Lack of sleep can lower pain thresholds predisposing to pain.

  • Squinting can increase tension in the muscles around the eyes, the back of the head, neck and shoulders.

  • Sleeping on too many pillows.

Diet/Food

  • Long gaps between meals.

  • Insufficient food, fasting or dieting

  • Dhydration

  • Caffeine (coffee, tea)

  • Food sensitivities may present as tension headaches

Environmental

  • Lighting – bright, flickering, flashing.

  • Loud noise

  • Change of climate/weather

  • Intense of penetrating smells

  • Smoking

  • Stuffy atmosphere

Other triggers

  • Congested nose/sinus problems

  • Toothache or other dental problems 

Standard Care:

Prescribed and over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.

Your treatment plan

After a thorough medical history and examination procedure treatment needs to address the underlying causes and any exacerbating factors. 

Acupuncture
Acupuncture is commonly recognised as an aid to pain relief. N.I.C.E (the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence) concludes that acupuncture is a proven method to prevent tension-type headaches and migraine and doctors should prescribe it. Certain acupuncture points have been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for anxiety (6)

Acupuncture can help in the treatment of tension-type headaches by:

  • Increasing endorphins and neuropeptide Y levels which can help to combat negative affective states.
  • Stimulating nerves located in muscles and other tissues, which leads to release of endorphins and other neurohumoral factors, and changes the processing of pain in the brain and spinal cord. 
  • Reducing inflammation, by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors.
  • Increasing local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of swelling (3)

Massage
A combination of bodywork such as tui na, acupressure, massage, reflexology, relaxation, breathing and mindful awareness exercises are also a core strategy that has proven helpful for many people.

Other Lifestyle factors - Creating restful sleep patterns, making sure you have the right diet, nutrients and nourishing eating habits are also key, as well as addressing any emotional issues that may be involved.

British Acupuncture Research Fact Sheets - For further information please take a look at the related issues section on the right hand-side of the screen.

References:
  1. International Headache Society, 2004.
  2. http://www.migraine.org.uk/information/factsheets/what-kind-of-headache-do-you-have/
  3. British Acupuncture Council research factsheet - headaches
  4. http://www.migraine.org.uk/information/triggers
  5. Wu MT et al. Central nervous pathway for acupuncture stimulation: localization of processing with functional MR imaging of the brain-- preliminary experience. Radiology 1999; 212: 133-41.
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  • Lorna has come into our offices for the past three years and run acupuncture sessions as part of our annual Health and Wellbeing month. Staff are able to sign-up for 40 minute consultations and treatments, the feedback from staff has been excellent and I would highly recommend Lorna and Health Point Clinic. Sitting at a desk all day I suffered from lower back pain, after just one short session I could really notice the difference.

    Peter (26): Acupuncture at work - EY Channel Islands
  • From the start I’ve found Lorna to be very professional. The setting created in the office was very relaxing and comfortable in one of our meeting rooms. Lorna explained the process of acupuncture and the steps in the treatment to follow. As the treatment started, Lorna determined the main spots in the back and neck area where the tension was. She was spot on and as she inserted the needles I could immediately feel the muscles in my neck, shoulders and lower back relax. She put on some relaxing music while she attended to another patient next door. The 15-20 minutes or so relaxing with the music and acupuncture felt like heaven. I was definitely more relaxed in my shoulders and neck in the days that followed.

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    Hentie (29) Acupuncture at work - EY Channel Islands
  • Lorna provided a professional service to our customers and clients. You support to our athletes was second to none and we look forward to working with you again.

    Katie - Durrell Dash - Acupuncture & massage treatments post race.
  • A midwife suggested that I try acupunture and moxibustion to help turn my persistently breach baby as a last resort before an ECV at 37 weeks. Lorna was able to help with this but also took note of other areas of concern such as lower back and hip pain. The treatment itself was very comforting and Lorna gave me a moxa stick to continue at home. Later that evening I felt some strong movements from my baby, a scan the next day showed that he had finally moved into to the correct position and no intervention was required. The tension in my lower back and hips had also relelased. I am delighted with the results and would certainly recommend Lorna to anyone with a breach baby and/or suffering during the later stages of pregnancy.

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    Lucy (33): Acupuncture
  • Having suffered two strokes during 2013, I have found that acupuncture is the only on going effective treatment method. The left hand side of my face no longer feels like it has been hit with a football, my headaches are gone and my left foot has finally woken up. Following treatment, I have bursts of clarity and very slowly the fog in my head is clearing.

    Matthew (43): Acupuncture
  • Massively grateful to Health Point Clinic's Lorna Jackson for the incredible difference she's made to my chronic back pain... Oh my god, why didn't I get on to acupuncture years ago?! Lorna didn't just address the issues that were highlighted by all of the 'regular' doctors, consultants and experts - she nailed it (pardon the pun) with astute recognition of a number of my body's quirks, such as hyper mobility as being a contributing factor to everything else; three prolapsed discs, facet joint problems and pain and sciatica and numbness - to name a few of the delightful symptoms. For the first time in a very long time, I feel like someone listened to me, took notice of my chronic pain symptoms and the other attributed issues and addressed the root causes of what has been one of the most hindering factors in my life. I cant recommend Lorna Jackson and Health Point enough. I'm more mobile, my pain is barely measuring on the 1-10 for the most part, and I'm starting to feel like I can get my life back on track. Only three/four weeks ago, I honestly thought I was going to end up in a wheel chair within the next few years. The pain metrics between 1-10 meant nothing - constant mind shattering pain and immobility don't 'fit' within a 1-10 scale... Now I feel like I'm almost ready to start those essential core exercises and address the strength, fitness and maintenance that my body so desperately needs.

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    Lucy (37): Acupuncture
  • I initially went to Lorna to get some help to relax and de-stress, but after consultation Lorna identified and went on to successfully treat the pain in my neck, shoulder and arm which I had had for many years and had been told would need to be treated with steroids – something I was not keen to do. The results are amazing and have given me back full mobility. On one occasion I visited Lorna because I could not turn my head or lift my arm unaided but within 15 minutes of treatment I could swing my arm in a complete circle and turn my head fully from side to side – nothing short of miraculous! My stress levels have also reduced. Lorna is so approachable and easy to talk to - she makes you feel really relaxed and inspires confidence. I would not hesitate to recommend her. When my shoulder was particularly bad Lorna strapped it with acu-tape a number of times as I had long journeys through France to contend with and she also used it on my ankle when I twisted it and in both areas I found it to be very beneficial.

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    Hilary (52): Acupuncture
  • After trying all sorts of massages and treatments to relieve my tight neck and shoulders, I tried acupunture with Lorna. Not only did I feel reassured by her professional approach but she administered a number of needles specifically into the areas of tension. After just one session the tightness had released which exceeded my expectations of the treatment. I would highly recommend her as an excellent therapist and practitioner!

    Alex (29): Acupuncture
  • I had been seeking a cure for my neck problem for nearly two years now but to no avail. Until I saw Lorna. Not only she able to alleviate my symptoms significantly, was also able to help identify the primary cause of the problem. I am now undergoing treatment with the correct professional. Something no other practitioner I have seen has been able to do. Lorna's treatment approach is second to none. A methodical and tailored treatment plan in which she inspires belief and confidence. Sometimes recovery from a long-term problem can take time. With the treatment and support I received from Lorna I am finally on the road to a full recovery. I cannot thank her enough.

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    Kate (38): Acupuncture
  • Can't beat Lorna and her needles for pain relief and rehabilitation!

    Nat (37): Acupuncture
  • Lorna is really helping my chronic back problem. I come into the clinic for a top up as and when is needed and her acupuncture helps to keep me going.

    John (86): Acupuncture
  • Lorna's amazing, such a lovely way about her that I overcame my fear of needles and gave it a go. Turns out they're nothing like normal needles, they're tiny! Now I get regular accupuncture and it gives such a deep relief to my muscle tension and back pain. I come out feeling super relaxed with a softened back and muscles like jelly, all the tension completely gone, ready for a long deep sleep.

    Shona (32): Acupuncture
  • Lorna is awesome, I went to see her after having a headache for 3 days and I actually felt the pressure in my head lifting as she did the acupuncture.

    Yvonne (54): Acupuncture
  • I went to see Lorna as I had injured my shoulder, however after a detailed consultation Lorna also reviewed my lower back and suggested some work could be done in that area too. The acupuncture itself was relaxing, yet at the same time I felt each 'needle' was really clearing the problem. Lorna let me know throughout the treatment what she was doing and wanted my feedback too which was comforting as it really felt like Lorna consistently cared about how I was feeling. At the end of the treatment I even had a 15-minute relax with soothing music - as relaxing as a spa treatment! So - did it work? Yes it did! Would I recommend acupuncture? Absolutely - I am going to visit Lorna again when the dreaded hay fever season starts as I think acupuncture could be the way forward for this too. The practice feels professional yet welcoming and Lorna herself exceeded my expectations.

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    Joanne (53): Acupuncture
  • I have been having acupuncture for shoulder and neck problems. On my first visit Lorna took a detailed history and explained about Chinese medicine and how it can help. I was extremely impressed with the calmness of the clinic and the gentleness of her approach. After my first session there was significant improvement in the level of pain and the range of movement but alongside this for the first time in months I have had a good night sleep. Thank you Lorna for all your help.

    Carol (56): Acupuncture
  • I was referred to Lorna by my local GP after the re-occurance of problems in my shoulder and neck. The injury was from being hit by a car while out cycling over 18 months ago. Lorna quickly assessed the problem of the damaged muscle area but also correctly predicted the secondary effects on other muscles. Lorna is very professional and dedicated to her work that it makes your treatment less stressful. I would recommend Lorna to anyone, especially sports people looking to clear up injuries in a positive way with long term benefits.

    Peter (39): Acupuncture
  • The acupuncture treatment Lorna gave me provided the relief of pain / stress that I needed for my tennis elbow. More importantly, your easy and relaxed manner was highly professional and you were able to answer all my probing questions about the acupuncture treatment in layman’s terms. Although my tennis elbow has not gone completely, the pain is insignificant and very manageable by doing the exercises and by using my elbow in ways to protect it that Lorna recommended. I will definitely recommend Health Point Clinic for acupuncture services.

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    Anne (44): Acupuncture
  • One visit to Lorna told me more about my condition than anyone else, she knows her subject and more, it is well worth a consultation with her.

    Jennifer (63): Acupuncture
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