Tension Headaches, Acupuncture, and You

Suffering from tension headaches? Congrats! You are part of a massive club – up to 70% of some populations in fact!

Tension headaches are a result of muscle contractions in the head and neck. Patients at our acupuncture clinic generally experience it as mild to moderate pain, describing it as a tight vice-like band around the head, sometimes spreading into the shoulders.

Sound familiar? 

Other symptoms of tension headaches may include:

  • Dull, achy pain in the head
  • Pressure and tightness across the forehead, on the sides, back of the head, and/or behind the eyes
  • Tension and tenderness in the neck and shoulders

This type of headache can vary greatly in duration, frequency, and intensity. Many individuals report that they have been dealing with headaches for months, years, or the famous “For as long as I can remember, I thought this was just my normal”.

Why does this happen in the first place?

The most common cause and trigger is, drumroll please…..


The classic culprit, and there tends to be a lot of it these days in this crazy world we live in.

Along with stress, tension headaches are usually precipitated by one or more of the following triggers:

  • Working at a desk – a.k.a “Desk Neck or Tech Neck”
  • Eye Strain (e.g. staring at a computer screen for long periods, see above)
  • Colder temperatures
  • Fatigue
  • Poor posture
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking

“I’ll just pop back an aspirin and I’ll be good”

Sure, over-the-counter pain medications such as Aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can work well in a pinch, but they are by no means a long term solution.

In fact, if you take them too often, they may no longer help as much or even at all. You may even get headaches more often because of overuse!

Can Acupuncture help with Tension Headaches?


Acupuncture is very effective at treating tension headaches, and while they have a number of causes (as mentioned above), the most frequent causes are:

  • Stress
  • Muscle Tension

 Acupuncture provides an approach that addresses these primary causes in three ways:

  1. Providing natural pain relief by stimulating the nervous system to release a cascade of natural painkillers such as endorphins and enkephalins
  2. Reducing and eliminating muscular tension by increasing blood flow to the affected areas, helping relax muscles in the neck, shoulders, and head.
  3. Reduce stress by regulating the Central and Autonomic Nervous System

By approaching the problem via this three-pronged strategy, not only does it address simply the symptoms, but also the root underlying cause in order to help manage and reduce the frequency and severity of tension headaches (possibly even eliminating them completely!).

Not a tension headache? No problem!

Acupuncture is not only great for tension headaches, but it can also treat migraines, hormonal headaches, and more! Acupuncturists also have an arsenal of other modalities and tools to help keep your headaches away; including moxa, nutrition and lifestyle changes, and herbal therapy!

What to learn more about how we can help you with your headaches? Contact us!