Dry Needling for Headache Relief

by Onward Physical Therapy | December 20, 2023 |
Dry Needling for Headache Relief

Many individuals suffer from chronic headaches and the disabling impact it has on their lives. Those with chronic headaches often get varying diagnoses, such as migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. But we frequently see cervicogenic headaches who arise because neck stiffness is the biggest driver of headaches in the clients we help. This article will help you understand how dry needling for headaches can be a game-changing treatment for your headaches.

What Causes Headaches?

For so many individuals suffering from headaches, stiffness and tension in the upper neck can be the cause of their pain. In the first few joints of the upper neck, lack of mobility can result in the neck referring pain into a ‘Rams Horn” pattern which is characteristic of what is called cervicogenic headaches.

This stiffness is frequently the result of excess tension in the muscles connecting the head to the neck, called the suboccipitals. Desk-job workers and individuals who regularly have to sit for extended periods of the day are most frequently impacted by cervicogenic headaches.

In these individuals, headaches typically start in the neck and then come up around the ear to the temple, usually on one side. The pain experienced is typically tender, aching, and dull, with associated feelings of neck pain or tightness.

How Helpful is Dry Needling for Headaches?

With so many headaches coming from this excessive neck tension, treatments that reduce the tightness in the upper neck muscles can have a massive impact on symptoms. Dry needling, in particular, is a highly effective treatment for relaxing the tension in the suboccipitals.

Dry needling for headaches involves taking small needles and inserting them into the tight muscles. At Onward, we then connect the needles to an electrical stimulation machine that produces a light contraction of these muscles. These small muscle contractions reset the tension levels in the muscles, allowing us to find strength & mobility exercises so that you can keep this area moving better.

Once upper neck mobility is improved and strength is built, clients with cervicogenic headaches will see a massive reduction in their headache frequency, duration, and intensity.

How Quickly Can I Expect Relief with Dry Needling for Headaches?

Timelines always vary, but we should see an improvement in mobility within your first session. Typically, within 2 sessions, we will see some appreciable change in headache intensity. For some, this may be as high as 75% reduction in frequency within just a few weeks. The majority of those with cervicogenic headaches will find a huge change within 3 months of targeted treatments.

Why is Dry Needling Effective for Headaches?

The upper neck muscles can be challenging to self-treat. With dry needling, we can directly work on the tension in these muscles for rapid improvements in mobility and pain. Once motion has been opened up, simple home exercises such as cervical SNAGs can build upon the improvements made.

Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdxjug8kdGg 

Ready to Feel the Effects of Dry Needling for Headaches?

At Onward Physical Therapy, our team has headache specialists across the nation ready to help you regain your life and freedom from chronic headaches. Find a location near you to get started today!