Most headaches are not serious but 15% or over 30 million Americans will have headaches severe enough or frequent enough to require a visit to a physician, in fact headaches are the most common cause of pain which prompt patients to seek medical attention.
The most common type of primary headache is scalp and neck “muscle contraction” or tension headache. This affects 20% of the population. Tension headaches are primarily caused by abnormal tension in the muscles of the head and neck, which is often exacerbated by stress or anxiety.
Migraine, which has an important vascular component, makes up the other large group of primary headaches, affecting 5 to 10% of the population. Cluster headaches are also primary headaches that affect only about one percent of headache sufferers.
Tension headaches and migraine headaches can occur in an individual at the same time. A migraine headache will typically involve both vascular pain and muscle tension simultaneously to varying degrees. Ninety percent of the time there is clear evidence of an underlying myofascial pain condition. That is why it is important to always look at possible muscle reaction patterns.
Acupuncture which relaxes the nervous system, releases endorphins and prompts muscular relaxation has been proven in dozens of recent studies (see below) to be a valuable therapy for the treatment of most primary headaches. In 1997, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) officially recognized acupuncture as an effective treatment for treating headaches.
Acupuncture has the unique capacity to resolve headaches by stimulating the bodies intrinsic healing ability. It may do this by releasing the bodies natural pain substances or through the release of chemicals that influence the body’s self-regulating systems to promote physical and emotional well-being. Additionally acupuncture prompts musclular relaxation which decreases the feeling of physical stress and relieves the muscular pain associated with primary headaches.
The diagrams below illustrate how muscular reaction patterns can lead to different types of headaches depending on the referral pattern of the affected musculature. Acupuncture points (trigger points) are marked “X” and are some of the most effective points to treat the associated referral pain often seen with headaches.