A Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective
Migraines and headaches are likely causing abnormal functioning of the brains blood vessels, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it's regarded as a possible symptom or imbalance within your body. Therefore, we look deeper into the body to find the cause.
Acupuncture divides your body into a series of zones and pressure points. Depending on your symptoms. These needles are positioned near nerves in your body. The needle stimulates the nerves to release hormones, such as endorphins, that trigger a response from your body. This immune and circulation system stimulation is relieves migraines and tension headaches.
From the viewpoint of TCM, migraines and headaches are classified according to the overall condition of the patient, not only the nature of the headache. Let's examine which etiology you identify with most:
In addition, the location of the headache also determines which organs or channels could be the culprit. Here are the different locations and their affected organs. Try a little self diagnosis:
Simply stated, in TCM, any pain, including headaches is due to an obstruction or blockage that prevents the free flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients. The most common cause of headaches is due to a Liver disharmony. This type of obstruction will typically result in Heat inside the body. I like to use an analogy of stuffing a banana inside a car’s exhaust pipe. Instead of the exhaust being efficiently eliminated from the car it is forced to go back inside the engine creating heat and complications with other internal systems.
The symptoms of Liver type migraine headache exhibit moderate to severe pain, throbbing, aggravated by physical exertion. This type of migraine is usually associated with emotional strain or stress, feeling of oppression in the chest and sides of the ribcage, depression or anxiety.
In Western Medicine, foods or beverages that trigger migraines are alcohol, aged cheese, chocolate and aspartame. In TCM, it is explained that patients should stay away from fatty and greasy foods, alcohol, coffee or sweets with refined sugars. These foods produce Dampness and Heat, while excessively spicy foods also produce Heat, worsening the condition.
If eliminating Heat causing foods is not enough to improve your migraine and headache you may have a more serious imbalance. Acupuncture has been proven in randomized clinical trials and been approved by the World Health Organization as an effective treatment for minimizing the suffering caused by headaches and migraines.
A clinical study of acupuncture for cluster headaches recommended treatment twice a week for two weeks, followed by one treatment per week for eight weeks, and maintenance treatments of once every other week after that. However, prior any recommendation of a treatment plan, an assessment is conducted to determine the best course of action. Remember, each individual are different and comes with a different life style, genetic, age group and gender. All those aspects must be taken in consideration.
Some people do feel tiny pricks when the needles are inserted for acupuncture treatment. Some people won’t feel anything at all. If you speak with your practitioner about concerns you have about discomfort, you might feel calm going into the procedure.
Furthermore, acupuncture helps with many other conditions such as anxiety and stress. It is known to improve mental health overall.
You should be aware that many health insurance companies cover acupuncture procedures. Contact your provider to find out if you are covered.
By Chris Lanza, TCM Acupuncturist at Pillars of Wellness