Headache


Michael Domeny DNP-c, FNP, MS, L.Ac, CD/N,

Licensed Nutritionist, Licensed Acupuncturist

Board certified Herbalist,

Family Nurse Practitioner

Introduction

 

Headache pain may result from contraction or dilation of the arteries in the scull as well as inflammation of brain membranes, pressure from a tumor or hemorrhage. The exact cause of headache is still not known, but it is believed that it can be the result of imbalance or changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin or noradrenalin. This imbalance causes inflammation of scalp arteries and irritation of pain sensitive structures such as venous sinuses as well as cranial and cervical sensory nerves.

These inflamed or irritated structures stimulate the trigeminal nerve. Trigeminal nerve is the main nerve that carries signals from the face to the brain. Pain impulses get into the brain though trigeminal nerve.

 

 

                                          There are four major types of headaches

 

  Tension headache

 

Symptoms:

-         Most common type of headache

-         Dull squeezing knot or pressure pain in the forehead, scalp, temples,

      or back of the head and neck

 Cause:

       Muscle tension – especially in the neck and shoulders

 

 Mechanism  

 

         Physical or physiologic tension accumulates in the body and causes contraction in skeletal and smooth muscles (lining blood vessels & internal organs). This causes low oxygen supply and development of pain in the skeletal and smooth muscles. As a result some people may also complain of pain in the stomach, neck and shoulders.

 

 

Treatment with acupuncture

  

  • · Very good response to acupuncture treatment

  • ·  Local effect - needling of affected parts effectively relaxes both superficial and deep

                                 muscles all over the body and restores their normal blood and oxygen

                                 supply.

  • ·    Systemic effect- needling leads to release of neurochemicals such as endorphins. This  

                                     causes relaxation of skeletal and smooth muscles as well as other  

                                     systems such as cardiovascular system. As a result blood pressure

                                     is normalized. 

  • Combination of local and systemic effect of acupuncture brings on relieve of tension headaches.

 

 

Migraine headaches

    Symptoms


  •     It is more frequent in woman due to hormonal imbalance surrounding periods
  •     Usually moderate to severe pain in one side of the head
  •     Usually accompanied by nausea or visual disturbance.
  •     Tightness in the scalp - same as in the tension headache
  •     Constipation, insomnia, fatigue or food allergy usually accompany this kind of headache

 

         Cause

 

  •    It is believed to be imbalance in the neurotransmitters of the nervous system

 

       Treatment with acupuncture

 

  •      Acupuncture along with other life style factors (such as constipation) need to be worked on at the same time for optimal results

 

Cluster headaches

 

      Symptoms

  •        More common in male patients
  •       Steady stabbing pain around one eye or on one side of the head

       sometimes with watering or redness of the eye and nasal

        stuffiness on the same side of the face

 

      Cause


  •  Believed to be due to disorder in the hypothalamus which   regulates variety

     of hormones in the body as well as sleep-wake cycle.

  • Smoking, alcohol or certain foods may trigger cluster headaches especially in patients with family history of cluster headaches.

 

      Treatment with acupuncture

 

  • Acupuncture relieves pain in similar fashion as in the case of tension headaches 
  • Besides the Local and Systemic effect, acupuncture also stimulates peripheral nerves which sends impulses directly to the hypothalamus. This way acupuncture helps the hypothalamus to restore its normal regulatory function and reduce the symptoms of cluster headaches.

 

Organic headaches

 

  • Account for less then 1% of all headaches

 

       Cause

 

  • Inflammation of membranes around the brain
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Brain edema 
  • Brain tumor

 

       Treatment with acupuncture

 

  • Identify and treat underlying cause
  • Clinical evidence shows that acupuncture can be useful as a supplement to conventional approaches
  • Acupuncture induces secretion of endorphins, which relaxes blood vessels, promotes blood circulation and reduces peripheral resistance to blood circulation
  • Acupuncture can also help to reduce tissue swelling, reduce inflammation and lower blood pressure.