Can Dry Needling Help Headaches?

As people look for quick pain relief, dry needling is gaining popularity. It has been shown to be effective in relieving tension and pain, as well as improving mobility and releasing muscle knots. It is a popular choice for headache relief.

We discuss the benefits of dry needling for headaches.

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Finding the Right Solutions

Many people are unaware that their headaches could be caused by a neuromuscular problem. Tylenol and ibuprofen provide temporary relief. However, symptoms can return in what is known as a medication overuse headache. A doctor who offers a prescription or increases the dosage is not a good idea. The use of painkillers to relieve a neuromuscular issue is a way to temporarily mask the problem but not to address the root cause. This can lead to a vicious cycle that could lead to dependence and unhealthy behavior.

Dry needling is not something that patients often ask for. Patients may not know all the options available when they choose physical therapy. Communication is important. If you have chronic headaches, or if you avoid certain tasks or limit movements that could trigger headaches, let your physical therapist. You may be a candidate for dry needling. Remember that you and your physical therapist are one team.

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Can Dry Needling for Headaches help me?

Absolutely! Dry needling headaches targets trigger areas in the tissue and muscles to relieve tension. This helps prevent headaches and reduces tension. There are four types of headaches: cluster, tension, migraine, cluster, and sinus. Dry needling headaches is most effective for tension headaches, which are caused by muscle tension. There is more information on the three other types of headaches. Although migraines may not always be caused by neuromuscular issues, they can cause muscle tension which can increase the pain and limit the body’s mobility. A migraine assessment will determine if it is caused by muscle tension, nerve irritation, or restriction of blood flow to the head. A physical therapist might recommend dry needling or cardiovascular training to help with the latter two.

We need to remind you that there is no single technique, approach, or one thing that works for all headaches. Dry needling can be very effective in quick relief, but it is only one part of a complete solution. Dry needling has given muscles new mobility and functions that they don’t have before. It is now our responsibility to train those muscles to achieve the best results. Otherwise, they will return to the same state as before.

How do I know if my headaches are caused by muscle tension?

Tension headaches can be caused by tension in the neck, shoulders, upper back, and shoulders. These muscles are most likely to be the source of tension headaches if they feel tight or strained.

  1. Upper Trapezius
    Trapezius refers to a grouping of muscles that runs from the neck and upper back to the shoulders. Dry needling is a popular option for patients with muscle tension in their upper portions.
  2. Suboccipital Muscles
    The suboccipital muscle group is located at the base of your skull and the spine. Tension is common in this area. Dry needling can be used to target knots in these muscles.
  3. Sternocleidomastoid (sternomastoid)
    The sternomastoid muscle runs along the front and side of the neck. This muscle is often a source of tension for dry needling patients. This muscle is the second most frequent contributor to tension headaches.

What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

Dry needling is indeed different from acupuncture, even though they use the same tool, a monofilament needle. Acupuncture is focused on the meridian lines or “energy channels” where the issue is, whereas dry needling pinpoints the knots in the muscle and releases them from within. The two disciplines are not interchangeable.

Does Dry Needling Hurt?

The needle is rarely noticed by patients. Sometimes they do not feel it at all. The twitch response is what patients will feel. We would describe the twitch response as a muscle spasm or charley horse for a few seconds before the muscle relaxes.

Patients usually feel sore for 2 to 3 days after treatment. It is similar to feeling sore after intense exercise.

How long does dry needling take?

You can see the results immediately. After just one session of dry needling, patients feel relief from tension. But, just like a car, you don’t just change the tires once. Many patients will choose dry needling to maintain their health. Although severe headaches or chronic migraines can take a while to recover, the pain will be noticeable after one session.

For the best results, it is essential to maintain your muscles. Work with your physical therapist for exercises that will help you retrain them to move in a new way.

Final Thoughts

Dry needling can be used for many purposes and has many benefits. Dry needling is a rare treatment that can produce such dramatic results in a single session. As a physical therapist, the rewarding experience of seeing patients’ lives change is what makes it so worthwhile.

Patients have more power than they realize. We can expect to see dry needling becoming more common and accepted in sports medicine, spine rehab, trauma, and surgical rehabilitation. There are many other areas where it could be used as well.

AUTHOR

Dr. Ben Bagge

Pro+Kinetix Physical Therapy & Performance

"We Help Active Adults & Athletes Get Back To Workouts and Sports They Enjoy without surgery, stopping activities they love, or relying on pain medicine."
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