Stem Cell Treatment for Tension Headaches
A common type of headache is the tension headache, which is characterized by mild to moderate diffuse pain.
Typical symptoms include dull pain in the head, feeling of pressure in the forehead of sides of the head and tenderness in head, neck and shoulder regions. Generally tension headaches last from 30 minutes to one week. On the other hand, last for hours on end, and occurs more than 15 days/month for at least 3 months. Unlike migraines, tension headaches are generally not associated with sensitivity to light and sound.
The causes of tension headaches are not well understood. It is believed that stress may be a trigger. Muscles of the scalp and neck can contract due to stress, depression, anxiety or head injury, leading to a tension headache. Women are prone to experience tension headaches than men. In addition, the condition tends to be more common in the middle-aged population.
Tension headaches are diagnosed by your doctor by evaluating pain characteristics, intensity and location. Imaging tests (e.g. Magnetic resonance imaging and computerized tomography) may be done to rule out underlying conditions, such as tumors.
Treatment for tension headaches include self-care measures (e.g. massage) and the proper use of medications, when necessary. Overuse of pain medications is associated with rebound headaches.
When over-the-counter medications (e.g. ibuprofen, acetaminophen) are not sufficient to alleviate symptoms, prescription pain killers may be used. These include naproxen, indomethacin and ketorolac. Combination medications (e.g. aspirin, acetaminophen along with caffeine) may be more effective than single drug. Triptans may be prescribed to control both episodic tension headaches and migraine symptoms. Narcotics may be useful for pain relief; however, due to the addictive potential, these are not highly used for this condition.
Preventive medications may include tricyclic antidepressants (e.g.amitriptyline and nortriptyline) anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants.
Migraines and tension headaches together affect 1.4 – 2.2 % of the population. Controlling these chronic attacks is often quite challenging with available treatment. Side effects of most pain medications are a major concern for repeated use in chronic headache sufferers.
Stem Cell Therapy for Tension Headaches
In this context, people who are suffering from chronic headaches may benefit from stem cell therapy. Stem cells are primitive cells that can undergo differentiation to form different types of cells in the body, such as bone, blood, cartilage, tendon, ligaments, etc.
These cells are responsible for healing tissue damage by generating new healthy cells. However, with age, the body loses its ability to attract enough stem cells to the site of injury. In this regard, stem cell therapy delivers a high concentration of stem cells to the affected area to promote natural healing.
Unlike steroid injections, stem cell therapy does not present side effects, and is generally well tolerated in patients. Moreover, because these cells are derived from the patient, there are no chances of immune rejection. Other types of stem cells used in practices include amniotic derived stem cells and umbilical cord blood cells, both of which are not recognized by the patient’s immune system, and therefore very safe to administer.
A recent study evaluated autologous stromal vascular fraction for the treatment of chronic headaches. Stromal vascular fraction is a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells. Four women, who had long histories of migraine or tension headache, were treated with injections of autologous stromal vascular fraction, and were followed-up for over 18 months.
All subjects showed improvement in the frequency and severity of headache attacks. Moreover, it was possible to reduce the use of pain medications in subjects from opioid drugs to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.
Contact us at R3 Stem Cell for an evaluation of your conditions, and to learn more about this cutting-edge technology.
- Bright R, Bright M, Bright P, Hayne S, Thomas WD. Migraine and tension-type headache treated with stromal vascular fraction: a case series. J Med Case Rep. 2014;8(1):237.
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