Tension Headaches: An Investigation into Their Causes from a Naturopathic Perspective

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Abstract

A thorough understanding of the physiological processes that underlie muscle tension is foundational to any discussion on environments and substances that alter such a process. The fascial web, an interconnection of the various fascia, extends throughout the entire body and acts to link every area of the body together and connect external and internal structures. It is the fascial tissue that transmits forces locally (i.e., between muscle and bone or between muscle and ligament) and distally, thereby creating muscle contraction in interconnected but distant areas of the body. Fascia is composed of various cell types, fibers (elastin, collagen, and reticular), and a fluid-like ground substance that is rich in proteoglycans. Fascial tissue responds both acutely and chronically to its environment via adaptations in both collagen and proteoglycan structure. Acutely, this results in the normal contraction of muscles and resultant movement, such as looking down at one's feet while walking, but chronically it can result in chronic pain syndromes, including tension headaches, due to tensegrity (tensional integrity) changes in the fascial framework. This can occur as a response to repetitive strain or acute injury. The purpose of this discussion is to provide an overview of some of the many influences on muscle tension from the perspective of a naturopathic doctor. I will use tension headaches as an example, though the principles discussed here may be extended to many different chronic pain syndromes.

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