Jean’s Temple Headache Didn’t Go Away

When I (Dr. Emily) was in 8th grade, my mom (Jean) developed a temple headache. Her headache seemed to come out of nowhere. She figured it would just go away in a couple days. However, unlike headaches she had in the past, this one didn’t go away no matter what she tried. The intensity of her temple headache went up and down, but it was there all day every single day.

Jean Tried Several Treatments

Concerned that this headache could be a symptom of something serious, Jean saw several doctors who ran numerous tests and scans. Thankfully, all the tests and scans came back normal. But then why did she have this temple headache, and why wouldn’t it go away?

Jean then saw an acupuncturist, dentist, chiropractor, massage therapist, and physical therapist. She even had surgery on her TMJ (joint where the jaw meets the skull), as the dentist thought the restriction in her jaw mobility and displacement of the disc in her TMJ were causing her headaches. This surgery nor any other treatment she tried was able to get rid of her temple headaches or even lessen the intensity. It had now been several years since Jean’s temple headaches began, and no progress had been made. Why could no one figure out the cause of her temple headaches or get rid of them?

Jean Had Very Tight Neck Muscles

In the first year of physical therapy school, I learned how to measure motion, test strength, and palpate muscles to find knots. My parents were happy to be my “practice patients” anytime I visited home. It was then I realized how tight my mom’s neck muscles were. They felt like rocks. Her neck motion was very limited. The location of her headaches also seemed to follow the referral pattern of one of the neck muscles – the upper trap.

Temple Headache

I shared my theory with my mom that her tight neck muscles were causing her temple headaches. She was very aware of how tight her muscles were too. But she tried so many treatments in the past for those tight muscles and nothing helped.

Dry Needling Finally Provided Jean with Relief

In my second year of physical therapy school I learned about dry needling. Dry needling involves inserting a small monofilament needle into a muscle knot, causing that tight muscle to twitch and then fully relax. It is very effective at improving muscle flexibility and decreasing pain coming from tight muscles. A lightbulb went off in my head! I told my mom she needed to find a physical therapist who did dry needling. This was a treatment she had not tried yet or even heard of before.

Jean began physical therapy again, but this time it included dry needling. It only took 2 visits of dry needling to completely get rid of the temple headache she had every day for the past 10 years! She continued to see her physical therapist who helped her improve her neck flexibility, posture, and strength, and her temple headache never came back.

Why Did Jean Have a Temple Headache for So Long?

Why did Jean’s neck muscles stay tight for so long without relief? There were probably many factors that played a role, including stress/anxiety and failed past treatments. It also took several years to find the true source of what was causing her temple headaches. Check out this blog post about how acute pain can turn into chronic pain.

It’s Never Too Late to Get Relief

Because of how effective dry needling was for my mom, I became certified in dry needling. I’ve seen countless times how effective dry needling is at resolving headaches, whether they have been present for 10 days or 10 years. Dry needling doesn’t always completely get rid of headaches in only 2 visits, but it’s great when it does! Check out this blog post about other diagnoses that respond well to dry needling. It’s never too late to address your headaches and try dry needling!

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