Headaches and Migraines

Acupuncture for Headaches and Migraines | Treatment and Prevention
woman holding her head in painHeadaches are a part of life, at some point everyone will get a few, but they should be only a short term occurrence. When they are constant or cyclic and affecting your daily life then it’s a problem. Migraines are a more severe form which are very debilitating. Often strong medications are given to try and control them, usually with bad side effects. In Acupuncture types of pain correspond to different types of blockages, which explain the causes of different types of headaches.

In clinic I tend to see common underlying patterns; in women they are often hormonal/menstrual related. They tend to occur either around ovulation or around the end of the cycle. The headaches also tend to be on the sides of the head. This is because these are the areas the Liver/Gallbladder meridians rule. The Liver plays a key role in storing and regulating the blood flow during a woman’s menstrual cycle. When blockages develop, this can manifest with symptoms around the times when the Liver is required to do more work, ovulation and menses. This often causes blockages in its own meridian and also its paired organ, which results in upper back/neck stiffness and temporal headaches. The headaches can vary from an aching type to a very sharp shooting type.

Other times they are brought about by digestive issues; The forehead region is ruled by the Yang Ming meridians, which relate to the digestive system. Often headaches brought on by foods and diet issues tend to manifest here with a heavy aching characteristic. Ever seen someone with an “ice cream headache”? this always occurs in the forehead. Believe it or not too but a lot of frontal sinus headaches are actually digestive in origin in Chinese Medicine Theory.

Another common cause of headaches is ongoing emotional stress. This too puts strain on the Liver and Gallbladder causing similar blockages as women with menstrual type headaches. It results in too much energy being sent up to the head causing the meridians to block and cause pain. The severity of pain reflects how bad the blockages are. By descending this excess energy we can hope to help alleviate the headaches. Types of Headaches as headaches are such a common type of pain, several different types of headaches have been identified and categorised. A long extensive list can be found on the headaches Australia site.  Below are the more common types of headaches that present in my clinic:

Constant Headaches require investigation, don’t be complacent with your Health

Everyone suffers small headaches at some point, either brought about by fatigue or dehydration, this is normal. If though you are suffering regular headaches without a clear cause, you need to seek medical advise. Headaches are symptom of a vascular problem in the head, which can be an indicator for a lot of conditions.  It can relate to brain tumours, blood pressure problems, infections and so on. Rarely is it serious, but that doesn’t give you reason to ignore it. Pain medications are designed to allow you rest and recover from the headache. Don’t use them to numb the pain and keep soldiering on. Remember, pain is the body’s way of telling you something is wrong, and anything wrong in the head warrants investigation by your GP.

The Acupuncture theory of Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and Migraines have similar roots in Chinese medicine, its more about the severity that separates them. Migraines can occur in a similar manner as headaches describe above. 90% of all migraines I see are Liver/Gallbladder related. The Liver also nourishes the eyes, which is why one of the key markers that a migraine is coming is a change in the person’s vision. When only the Qi stagnates we get an aching type pain, when the blood also stops moving it becomes sharp and shooting. Headaches can develop from the same causes, excess stress- especially frustration and anger, dehydration, chronic illness and dietary issues. The treatment principle is the same for both: try and get the Qi and blood flowing again and descend the excess to try and alleviate the pain. As always we will discuss lifestyle changes as headaches and migraines are a physical symptom of a deeper disharmony which needs to be corrected to achieve long term relief.  The root cause of migraines is often rooted in an imbalance in the Liver or the digestion, sometimes both. This why before a migraine people often experience nausea, diarrhoea and light sensitivity.

The Cochrane’s review in 2015 on research for Acupuncture and migraines concluded: “In the previous version of this review, evidence in support of acupuncture for migraine prophylaxis was considered promising but insufficient. Now, with 12 additional trials, there is consistent evidence that acupuncture provides additional benefit to treatment of acute migraine attacks only or to routine care. There is no evidence for an effect of ‘true’ acupuncture over sham interventions, though this is difficult to interpret, as exact point location could be of limited importance. Available studies suggest that acupuncture is at least as effective as, or possibly more effective than, prophylactic drug treatment, and has fewer adverse effects. Acupuncture should be considered a treatment option for patients willing to undergo this treatment. This study is an example of the evidence presented in the Acupuncture Evidence Report showing there is strong supporting evidence for the effectiveness of Acupuncture for Migraine Prophylaxis and tension/chronic headaches.

man sitting at desk without a hedacheManagement and Prevention of Headaches and Migraines

  • Avoid excess stress and high stress situations – make sure you have hobbies and activities to help you cope with a stressful job or lifestyle.
  • Setup the blue light filter on your computer/smartphone to prevent excess stimulation of your eyes if working in front of computer screens all day
  • ensure you are properly hydrated at all times
  • If you are prone to Migraines and Headaches, avoid excessive intake of alcohol and coffee – these can move Qi and trigger a migraine
  • If you are experiencing the precursors of a migraine then stop what you are doing and rest. You body is giving you warning signs
  • Do regular yoga and stretching to keep your upper back and neck muscles loose to prevent muscular tension triggers

If you would like to discuss this further, or for any other health concerns, feel free to call the clinic on 9796 2388