Addressing Headaches Through Muscles

  • By lemaster
  • 22 Sep, 2017

Addressing headaches through trigger point therapy.

Common causes of headaches are tight muscles in the upper back, shoulders and neck. There are multiple presentations depending on which muscles are in spasm.   One of the most prevalent patterns is the referred pain pattern from upper trapezius.

The upper trapezius muscle connects the shoulder to the neck and head. It is commonly felt as a hard knotted lump in people who are suffering from these headaches. There are many causes for it tightening, the most common are: whiplash, postural, workplace ergonomics, and overuse. The pain it causes runs along the side of the head from the neck to the edge of the eye. Frequently this would be described as a headache on the side of the head, or a temporal headache.

The areas in red on the diagram show the areas where pain shows up when this muscle is in spasm.

This would be a headache or migraine like symptoms.  

In my clinical experience, when a patient presents with this pain pattern, treatment is generally relatively straightforward to get on top of the pain. We work to find the tight fibers of the muscle, and through direct needling of the trigger point, distal meridian needle, or needle free neuromuscular techniques (generally a combination of all three) we are able to get the muscle out of spasm and alleviate the headaches. In the process, it really makes the shoulders feel better as well.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from headaches or neck pain, please feel free to call to see if acupuncture can help you.

By proadAccountId-404277 10 Nov, 2017

The cereal you are having in the morning is total junk. We got into that last week when we discussed carbohydrates breaking down into sugar.

But what about the milk you are pouring over that sugar, uh…cereal?

Do you believe that lower fat milk, like skim milk, is healthier than whole milk?

Well, don’t. 

Skim milk (and 1% and even 2%) is, in fact, a highly processed AND toxic food.

The stripping away, or skimming, the fat out of the milk also strips the milk of essential saturated fats, vitamins A, D, K2 and a very important fatty acid called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which has been proven to prevent heart disease, Type II Diabetes, and several types of cancer.  While skim milk might contain calcium, it is now missing the fat and cholesterol you need to actually assimilate the nutrients!

Powdered non-fat milk is added to improve the taste, along with this improved taste are a toxic load of additional nitrates and oxidized cholesterol which are so harmful to our health.

Then why does the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and American Cancer Society all recommend low-fat or non-fat dairy in our diets? This advice is so antiquated it dates back to the 1970s. A lot has changed since then, wouldn’t you agree?

The modern epidemic of heart disease and obesity should not be blamed on eating fat containing foods like whole milk and butter, but on the highly processed junk you are buying in the aisles of your supermarket.

Remember: The closer your food is to it’s natural state will give your body the proper nutrients it needs to thrive.

By proadAccountId-404277 02 Nov, 2017

Just this week a patient mentioned they are eating steel cut oats as a way to incorporate more protein into their vegetarian lifestyle. Steel cut oats have 27 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and only about 5 grams of protein per quarter cup. There is no nutritional balance in those numbers.

Let’s break this down.

The three types of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber. You can eat the same amount of carbohydrates feasting on sweet potatoes than you can on bowls of Frosted Flakes. Our taste buds will know the difference but our bodies won’t. It all breaks down into sugar.

Well, with one exception.....fiber. And this is why fiber is called a complex carbohydrate, it's just that, complex. It takes our bodies a long time to digest, if at all. And there are a ton of health benefits that go along with this, fiber helps that good bacteria in our gut, improves digestion, and slows the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. On a nutrition label, we can subtract fiber from carbohydrates to get the total amount of carbohydrates. So there's that.

But the problems really comes when we eat too many simple carbohydrates like pasta or white potatoes, which are very high on the glycemic index and very low in fiber. These foods spike blood glucose levels to rapidly rise and then crash. This vicious cycle causes our adrenal glands to work over time and can lead to long-term problems like adrenal fatigue, constant sluggishness, and unresolved and unrelenting issues with weight, anxiety, and depression. And that is just the beginning. Degenerative diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, all caused by crash and burn, nutrition depletion of sugar levels rising and falling in our bodies.

But when we stop this rollercoaster we often find our mood more stable, our sleep improved, our digestion awesome, and we will eat when we are hungry and not when we are tired and thirsty. We will be more connected to our body. Getting our bodies into balance will allow us to understand just what it needs.

By proadAccountId-404277 25 Oct, 2017
Throughout our lives we have been told the importance of a balanced diet, and that we should eat three well-balanced  meals with some snacks in between. We have also been told of the dangers of fat and cholesterol. What has been absent from this is the real effects that diet has on our body. I am going to go over the most fundamental challenges to the body of an incorrect diet.

Sugar comes in many shapes and forms. Most people are unaware of the many faces of sugar, believing they are eating well, when, in fact, they are consuming very large quantities of sugar. Sugar is also known as carbohydrates. That is fundamental to understand. Common sources of carbohydrates are bread, pasta, baked goods, fruits, starchy vegetables, fruits, and beans. This is a broad stroke and some of these foods release the sugars more slowly than others. Consuming a diet that is too high in carbohydrates increases insulin levels and can lead to many of the common health problems we see today including cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and of course diabetes. If you are seeing a pattern that this can be implicated in most major diseases you are starting to get a better understanding of nutrition.

There are nuances to this with whole foods, and fiber-containing foods being healthier to eat as the sugars take longer to get broken down, and they provide nutrients to the body, contrasted with white sugar, white flour and highly processed foods which can actually remove essential vitamins and minerals when our bodies digest them.

I have attached a carbohydrate list. It is far from comprehensive, but good to look over to see where common foods are in sugar content.

A nice explanation of insulin's relationship with fat:

By proadAccountId-404277 25 Oct, 2017
We are all familiar that sugar has a relationship with hormones, but we may not know that yet. Insulin is a hormone and controls a lot of important functions in the body. 10 major functions of insulin in the body are:

1 - stimulate glucose going into the cells of the body where they are converted to glycogen or fat

2 - Influences the production of proteins in the body

3 - increases potassium uptake

4 - induces glycogen creation

5 - decreases the liver creating sugars from fat (burning fat)

6 - increases triglycerides by pushing more sugars into fat cells

7 - decreases the breakdown of proteins

8 - influences sex hormones (this is commonly seen in many cases of diagnosed PCOS and endometriosis where controlling blood sugar through diet provides fast effective and safe management of symptoms)

Insulin resistance is a condition where the body has high insulin levels over a period of time, frequently due to eating a high carbohydrate diet and other lifestyle issues. Over time when the insulin levels are high due to chronically high sugar levels, the cells require more insulin to get the sugar into them. This can affect other hormones and bodily functions, these include, but arent limited to:

2-  Lowering leptin resistance  - the body's ability regulate your appetite (and not in a good way)

3 - Lowering growth hormone production  - again, regulating fat burning as well as libido and body repair

4- Fatigue  - with chronic blood sugar and insulin resistance fatigue after eating is a very common symptom

5 - Increased stress and anxiety - Sugar highs lead to sugar crashes and the brain is one of the biggest users of sugars in the body, when it is starving for sugar short temperedness, fatigue, and impaired cognitive ability are common. Additionally it can increase stress hormones like cortisol.

Sugar also can age skin prematurely due to its destructive effects on collagen  

Bone damage and increased inflammation can also be traced to a  high sugar diet

Last - but not least - high sugar consumption can negatively affect your immune system

By lemaster 22 Sep, 2017

What should I expect after acupuncture?

A very common question i get with patients either new to acupuncture, or new to me, is what to expect after treatment. The general answer is a reduction in symptoms and a greater sense of wellbeing. More specific answers vary by the treatment style, specifically if I use APM (Acupuncture Physical Medicine) which incorporates dry-needle trigger point release.

In the case of APM (dry needling), immediately following treatment there may be soreness in the muscles I have worked on. Usually it would feel similar to after a good workout or a deep tissue massage. There is a possibility when getting off the table that some muscles have tightened, so we always check for those before leaving. If there are tight muscles they are easily released. The muscles should allowed to rest for 1-2 days, following that they should function better and be less painful overall.

In work targeting internal conditions, following treatment there may be improvements in sleep, digestion, bowel movements, anxiety, stress, and pain.

By lemaster 22 Sep, 2017

Addressing headaches through trigger point therapy.

Common causes of headaches are tight muscles in the upper back, shoulders and neck. There are multiple presentations depending on which muscles are in spasm.   One of the most prevalent patterns is the referred pain pattern from upper trapezius.

The upper trapezius muscle connects the shoulder to the neck and head. It is commonly felt as a hard knotted lump in people who are suffering from these headaches. There are many causes for it tightening, the most common are: whiplash, postural, workplace ergonomics, and overuse. The pain it causes runs along the side of the head from the neck to the edge of the eye. Frequently this would be described as a headache on the side of the head, or a temporal headache.

By lemaster 22 Sep, 2017

Treatment of neck disorders with acupuncture
Neck problems are very frequently seen in my clinic. They happen to people with some regularity, and in many cases are easily and quickly resolved. The most common of the neck complaints are tightness in the upper trapezius, and tightness in the levator scapulae. Although the names alone may not mean much to most people, you have probably suffered from one, or more likely, both conditions.
The upper trapezius is the muscle that runs from the shoulders to your neck and back. The middle and lower fibers run along your spine to the lower middle back . When there are trigger points in this muscle, the referral can send pain and tension from your upper shoulders to your jaw or even cause headaches on the sides of your head or next to your eyes. There is the additional presentation of raised shoulders.
Dependent upon the patient, constitution, severity and duration o the condition treatment options differ greatly. Treatment is tailored to give the patient the fastest and most lasting results based upon these factors. In the cases of patients with a more sensitive and responsive constitution this can frequently be addressed using neuromuscular techniques (no needles) to stimulate various reflexes and stimulating related muscles to facilitate a reduction in pain and decrease in degree of spasm. This can effectively ameliorate the degree of discomfort and dysfunction in many cases in one to three sessions.
In cases I have seen where the muscles feel like rocks and the person has been carrying their shoulders elevated for an extended period of time I use a technique called dry needle trigger point release. This involves working on the tightest fibers of muscle and stimulating them to fasciculate (twitching), which mechanically will release the spasm. Following the treatment it is not uncommon to experience some soreness, similar to after a good workout, for the remainder of the day and possibly the next day. The immediate and verifiable results following treatment are a loosening of the muscle and an increase in range of motion. Generally this decreases the related symptoms of headaches and jaw tightness (if present on intake), and also increases the strength of the muscle.
In most cases, regardless of presentation, therapy is given at distal points (areas not near the shoulders or neck), that will further stimulate the muscle to relax and mobilize the body’s healing processes. These points also help to restore overall balance in the body to assist the treatment in holding longer.
Levator Scapulae is a different kind of presentation, although it is frequently seen in conjunction with the upper trapezius. This muscle runs from the upper inside corner of your shoulder blade past the nape of your neck and connects to the upper cervical vertebrae . Some of the functions of this muscle are turning the head and raising the shoulder blade. If you have ever woken up with a stiff neck, and have problems turning your head to one side or both then you know the muscle. At times this can become severe and the duration may last more than a day or two. This patient will walk in with a demonstrable problem in cervical rotation (turning head). At that point I press on the muscle, and if it tight and painful, confirmation has been given that the muscle is in spasm.

Treatment, again, is based upon the constitution of the patient and the presentation. In cases where a patient is more responsive to distal work, there are points on the hands and feet that I have used very successfully to immediately improve the range of motion (generally by 80-90%) and decrease pain. The results are dramatic and if the situation is acute tend to show resolution within 1-2 days without further intervention.
In more severe cases I tend to use the dry needle trigger point technique. In one particular case, a patient had slept wrong while having cold air blown on her. When she came in to see me her right shoulder was raised as if she was cradling a phone with her shoulder (she wasn’t actually cradling a phone). It was immediately apparent the problem was with this muscle. I had her get on the table, and within 4 minutes of treatment her shoulder was back to normal, and she had full range of motion. I have seen many other patients who had come in with a stiff neck from sleeping, or limited range of motion turning their heads who have responded immediately once this muscle was addressed.

By lemaster 22 Sep, 2017
Acupuncture in the treatment of shingles and postherpetic neuralgia
Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of suffering from shingles and postherpetic neuralgia couls explain it is one of the worst most excruciating pains to have. Generally by the time I see someone the pain has persisted for longer than expected and the disease is at a tougher stage to treat, as it has become entrenched.
Generally with acupuncture and herbs, if done from the onset, the progression of the disease can be staunched by boosting the immune system, and possibly with the introduction of herbs containing targeted anti-virals. Symptomatically points and herbs are chosed to reduce systemic inflammation, as well as specifically targeting nerves causing pain.
My preferred techniques for targeting the nerve pain are using distal techniques (I prefer not to needle into area that are already irritated. The styles that are most conducive to that are Sujok (using allpoints on the hand to influence the body), Master Tong’s/ Dr. Tan’s methods (using areas of the body to influence distal regions), channel theory, and Kiiko Matsumoto style.
One particular case sticks in my mind. A woman in her late 50’shad gastric bypass surgery, but suffered from complications. Once she got to her desired weight she continued losing. She was not getting sufficient calories or nutrients from her food. She succumbed to Shingles on her face, and the postherpetic neuralgia would not go away. By the time I go to see her, half of her face was inflamed, painful, and distorted from the nerve inflammation. It looked as I there was a line drawn down the midline as the other half was undisturbed. She was also experiencing significant pain in her mouth as well. We started at 3 treatments a week, and by the end of the first week, we had reduced the pain in her mouth to almost zero, and her face was 70% better. This was all done by having her test an area to gauge the level of pain. I would find a corresponding point elsewhere on the body that should stimulate a healing reaction there, and then I would have her test again. We would repeat this testing until we had reached maximum improvement for the session.
By the end of the second week, we had surpassed 85% improvement, and looking at her there were no signs of the shingles. Over the course of 6 weeks, we achieved a 95% improvement, and she was discharged.
By lemaster 22 Sep, 2017
Treating Shoulder problems with acupuncture and neuromuscular techniques Pt1.
Frozen Shoulder.
Frozen shoulder – or adhesive capsulitis – gives multiple presentations, and several different underlying causes. What they have in common with each other is movement of the shoulder is very limited, cause tends to be undetermined, and treatments have not been very effective. Pain, however, is the real deciding factor. This condition tends to be painful with the pain ranging from somewhat intermittent pain to constant and intense pain.
The cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, there are multiple theories, but what is known is the capsule of the shoulder becomes inflamed restricting motion and causing pain. By the time a patient is in my office, generally multiple doctors had been seen. In the case of this condition, there is not a lot that conventional medicine can offer. The usual course of treatment may be anti-inflammatories, or physical therapy.
Treatment modalities that I tend to use in with frozen shoulder are dry needle trigger point technique. This is a muscule based technique that assists local musclulature in the shoulder to loosen, allowing greater blood flow by reducing pressure in the joint, allowing greater blood flow and a decrease in inflammation. This technique generally would be accompanied by distal needling along the channels, encouraging a reduction in inflammation.
Another technique I have used very successfully has been Kaufman’s pain elimination technique. There are multiple approaches in this system, in general they involve using neuromuscular techniques to instantly get muscles out of spasm, and various other techniques to gently encourage mobilization of the joint.
Following the application of either of these techniques, I check the range of motion (generally the improvement should be between 30-60%) and the pain should be significantly reduced. Following that, I do bodywork to encourage the muscles to set. Both have these techniques have rapidly cleared acute and chronic frozen shoulders, and given people back their lives (or at least the ability to grab cans from high shelves, and brush the tops of their heads).
By lemaster 22 Sep, 2017
For anyone suffering from plantar fasciitis, or heel spurs you know what it is like and what the limited treatment options are. For anyone who has never had or is not sure if they have had this condition, please let me assure you it is not comfortable, and the conventional treatment options leave something to be desired.
Prior to practicing acupuncture, I was practicing yoga one day. Unfortunately I was doing so in a competitive mindset, and was determined to nail downward facing dog with proper form. I did get the pose, but the next morning I woke, and as soon as my heel hit the floor I lit up with pain. Throughout the day and the subsequent months I was greeted with an indescribable discomfort in my heel area as I walked. It was certainly most severe in the morning when my heel would hit the floor. As the day progressed the pain would become less severe and I would more be aware that something was wrong than experiencing strong discomfort. In later experience I realized I had a minor case of what turned out to be plantar fasciitis.
The condition itself is due to micro tears on the plantar fascia. This is the thick tough connective tissue on the bottom of the foot . It provides strength stability and protection to the foot. Since it is fascia, it is not supplied with good blood flow, and when there are the micro tears. This condition is often associated with heel spurs – protuberances o bone that place excess stress on the plantar fascia. Treatment options, as I have said, are limited and vary in efficacy.
My first case of plantar fasciitis that I had in my office was very interesting. A woman came in severely limping. I had just completed my training in Sujok acupuncture, and being that I knew this to be a difficult condition, I decided to test out what I had learned. I found the most tender spots on her heels and would press them for a baseline on the level of pain that she experienced. I located the points on her fingers that significantly reduced the pain when I pressed on her heels. I then placed small needles in the finger points. I did this with all of the tender spots on her feet. Once I had completed the placing of the needles, I had her walk the hallway of my office. She was amazed at the reduction of pain. After several minutes of needle retention, I removed the pins, and placed small metal beads where the pins were and asked her to leave them on for a day.
At the second treatment she had maintained a 40% improvement. I repeated the process. On the third treatment I had my office manager call to confirm and she was going to cancel her appointment because it hadn’t been working. I was shocked, as I thought she had been making great progress. It ends up she thought that I was her podiatrist, and it was her conventional treatments that had not been getting results. After 2 more visits she was completely pain free, and 4 years later continues to be.
Since that time I have seen many more patients suffering from this condition, and the vast majorities have had rapid and dramatic improvement in their pain while getting great improvement in function. This is all without any drugs or pain killers.
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