Three Reasons the Holidays May Be Giving You a Headache

ache-adult-depression-expression-41253 Before you blame the eggnog and Post-Election Stress Disorder (okay, it’s not a real disorder, we made it up), consider how myofascial trigger points might be the real pain in your neck (and head).

A trigger point (or TrP) is a taut band of tissue that generates a specific pain referral pattern, and trigger points in the neck and shoulders often refer pain into the head. In the past decade there has been increased attention on the therapeutic benefits of trigger point therapy and according to a recent article published in The Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, “there is clear scientific evidence supporting the role of active TrPs in tension-type, migraine, and cervicogenic headache.”

Repetitive overuse or acute overload of a muscle can cause trigger points and gearing up for the holidays might be to blame:

1. Online Shopping

Trying to meet that end-of-year deadline while frantically scouring pages and pages of online sales? Sustaining poor posture and the eyestrain that comes from spending hours at a computer can overtax muscles that generate pain behind the eyes, on the sides and in the back of the head.

  • Did you know? Forward head posture is a common postural imbalance stemming from spending too much time at the computer. Aside from head, neck, and shoulder pain, over time this imbalance can also lead to numbness and tingling in the arms and shoulders. Luckily, acupuncture, manual therapy, and corrective exercise can help.
  • Self-care tip: Be sure to take regular breaks and counteract screen-induced eyestrain by refocusing your gaze out of a window or across the room.

2. Offline Shopping

So you thought you’d get out there, do some shopping, AND get some exercise while you’re at it? Lugging around heavy bags can lead to tension and trigger points in the neck and shoulders, and these trigger points can lead to a stiff neck and the referral pain can generate some nasty headaches.

  • Did you know? The most common place for trigger points to develop is in the upper trapezius, which is activated when elevating the shoulders toward the ears. The referral pain can go to the posterior head, temples, and even the jaw. Ouch, but luckily we know trigger points.
  • Self-care tip: Certain posterior neck muscles, when fatigued, are particularly sensitive to cold air exposure, so don’t forget that scarf!

3. Family Gatherings

Biting your tongue at the dinner table can really strain your jaw and facial muscles! Extra busy schedules and holiday pressures can also amp up the stress response in the body, leading to muscle tension and tension headaches.

  • Did you know? Acupuncture modulates nociceptive (painful) input to the brain and allows for the release of endorphins (feel-good chemicals). Good news for your nervous system and your relationships.
  • Self-care tip: Drop those shoulders and don’t forget to breathe. Even 5 minutes of mindful breathing or meditation can help.

The Good News!

Evidence shows that the headache-reducing effects of acupuncture trigger point therapy are often immediate.

We know trigger points and we love to help people feel better!

We are also experts in prevention and can teach you simple exercises, stretches, and postural adjustments to help you navigate the season with grace and ease…and get you back to doing what you love.

1. César Fernández-De-Las-Peñas & María L. Cuadrado (2016) Dry needling for headaches presenting active trigger points, Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, 16:4, 365-366, DOI: 10.1586/14737175.2016.1152889
2. Simons, David G. and Travell, Janet G., Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: The Trigger Point Manual, Volume I. Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, 1999.