Skip to main content

The Link Between Emotional Trauma and Headaches

The Link Between Emotional Trauma and Headaches

Frequent headaches can be disabling, especially if they’re migraine headaches. It’s well known that headaches can result from stress, but what kind of stress? Migraines are sometimes linked to mental health issues. Migraine sufferers report more instances of anxiety and depression than those who don’t have them. 

If you’ve tried standard medications for tension and migraine headaches without relief, it’s time for a new approach. Dr. Dongwhan Lee with DH Acupuncture treats headache patients using acupuncture. Acupuncture is a central part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which has been used for more than two centuries in China to cure a variety of ills, including headaches.

How are migraines and some tension headaches linked to emotional trauma? 

Researchers theorize that neurochemical systems involved in depression and anxiety are activated in individuals with migraines. You may have experienced a traumatic experience in the past. If so, it’s not surprising that you could have depression and/or anxiety issues. 

Recent studies support the link between migraine headaches and mental health. They report that migraine headaches can be linked to early emotional trauma such as abuse or neglect. Veterans and others with PTSD caused by emotional trauma report more tension and migraine headaches than those who don’t have the condition. 

Researchers have found that about 25% of people with migraines experienced some form of abuse in childhood. They’ve found that if you suffered two forms of abuse (for example emotional abuse and neglect), you’re 50% more likely to suffer from migraines. Emotional trauma in childhood which psychologists term “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACE) is linked to having early onset of migraines which can then become a chronic condition. 

Whenever you’ve experienced trauma, whether now or in the past, your brain registers a threat. Your stress response system (the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA) goes into overdrive with a fight-or-flight response. You produce larger than normal amounts of stress hormones such as cortisol that elevate your blood pressure and activate your adrenal glands. 

Once you no longer perceive the threat, your body calms down. However, if you’ve been exposed to trauma in childhood or additional traumatic experiences as you grew older, the normal way your body regulates itself changes. Your HPA system doesn’t work as it should, leaving some parts of the system overactivated while others are minimized. This can leave you with chronic anxiety and feelings of stress. Because stress can produce migraines, researchers theorize that your HPA response system that isn’t working normally could trigger your headaches. 

Of course, not everyone who gets migraines has had emotional trauma. Genetics may play a role as well. Your genes may have given you an overactive stress response system that can lead to migraines.

Tension headaches occur when your neck and scalp muscles contract from a stress response. Modern life has many stressors, from traffic jams to what you do for a living to conflict in your relationships. The list could be a mile long. You’re seeking relief. 

Acupuncture treatment for headaches 

Dr. Lee calms the overactive stress response that’s producing your headaches using acupuncture. He knows exactly what trigger points on your body activate your parasympathetic (calming) nervous system. 

You lie on a table and rest during your acupuncture treatment. It doesn’t hurt. Dr. Lee may also prescribe Chinese herbs that help your body regulate your stress response. 

If you don’t like using drugs to combat a stress response, or prescription medications haven’t worked for you, it’s time to move forward in a different direction. 

Call DH Acupuncture today or book an appointment through our online portal. We provide stress relief. 

You Might Also Enjoy...

Myths and Facts About Acupuncture

If you have chronic pain, you may be searching for an answer other than pills. What about acupuncture? Learn to separate myth from fact when it comes to this form of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
 Questions to Ask Your Acupuncturist

Questions to Ask Your Acupuncturist

If you’re considering acupuncture but have never had it, you likely have many questions. Following are some key questions to ask an acupuncture practitioner to help you decide whether acupuncture might benefit you.

Struggling to Get in the Mood? Acupuncture Can Help

Over half of American adults feel stressed. That takes a toll on intimacy. Add in hormonal imbalances, and you have a recipe for low levels of intimacy. Learn how acupuncture can help restore your sexual desire.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalances in Women?

What Causes Hormonal Imbalances in Women?

Are you suffering unexplained symptoms that are making your life more difficult? Maybe you have night sweats so frequently that you can’t sleep. Perhaps it’s irregular or heavy periods. Learn about hormonal imbalances and effective treatments.