Headaches

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29 12, 2013

Effective Acupuncture Treatment for Migraines

Migraine is a type of headache that occurs repetitively on both sides or one side of the head. This pain is throbbing and stabbing that leaves many people debilitating , the mechanism of migraine can be explained to the cellular level. Changes in cellular activities results in triggering the release of chemicals and blood flow

12 03, 2012

Student Heads Back to Class Pain Free

Anyone who suffers from headaches or migraines knows how debilitating they can be. Take Amy, a 22-year-old student whose headaches were so severe she could no longer attend classes.

When Amy came into our office her energy was low and she was clearly defeated by her headaches, which came as a sharp, stabbing pain in her temples accompanied by a severe sensitivity to light.

During the consultation, Amy told us she had severe PMS and mentioned that she’d hit her head years ago, but wasn’t sure if that was when the headaches started. She said her headaches tended to start in September every year when school began.

Amy no longer suffers from headaches

Our Search for the Solution Begins

According to Chinese medicine there are many types of headaches and we can determine which kind based on a person’s history, the nature of the pain, an examination of the tongue and pulse, and other accompanying symptoms.

In Amy’s case, her symptoms pointed towards a problem with blood stasis aggravated by qi-energy stagnation due to her stress from college. This diagnosis was based on the nature of her headache pain (stabbing), her history of head trauma, her PMS symptoms, and the purple aspect of her tongue – all of which pointed toward blood stasis.

The fact that her pulse was wiry and the headaches came in the fall when her stress level increased indicated liver qi-energy stagnation. Because the cause of Amy’s headaches was clear, the treatment was straightforward and the headaches were relatively easy to resolve.

Amy’s Treatment Plan

Treatment for Amy’s headaches involved acupuncture as often as three times a week combined with a herbal formula taken on a daily basis to help resolve her symptoms.

After the first acupuncture treatment, Amy’s headaches were still present but she was experiencing significantly less pain. After just two more treatments, her headaches were milder and less frequent and she was able to return to classes without aggravating her symptoms.

We recommended Amy continue weekly acupuncture for another month and after 10 treatments her headaches resolved completely.

At this point, we deemed Amy “graduated” from acupuncture and her treatment was complete. Amy was doing well and was not experiencing headaches even when faced with the stress of school. We recommended she monitor her symptoms and return immediately for treatment if she noticed them returning.

We also recommended she return for a series of preventative acupuncture treatments in late August or early September, around the time she would be returning to school.

Prognosis Looks Good

Just recently, Amy stopped in to say hello and to let us know that she is doing great and her headaches have not returned, even with the extra pressure final exams. Congratulations Amy! It’s stories like yours that make our day.

Wondering if acupuncture can help your condition? Chances are, it can! Contact us or visit Okanagan Acupuncture Centre at our downtown Kelowna location.

16 12, 2010

Whiplash

Whiplash is a common neck injury that often occurs during rear-end automobile collisions, but it can also occur from other activities such as contact sports or amusement park rides. The head suddenly moves backward and then forward, causing tissue damage known as whiplash. These extreme motions push your neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion, usually resulting in an acute sprain of the spinal ligaments and joints, most frequently in the C3- C6 vertebrae. Whiplash symptoms can occur immediately after the injury, or may develop only after a few days following the injury.

Whiplash injuries can be mild or severe. Symptoms may include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and blurred vision and may even cause difficulty concentrating, memory problems, irritability, sleep disturbances and fatigue. Most people recover from whiplash within 4-6 weeks, but for some people, whiplash injuries become chronic symptoms that can be extremely painful and disabling.

Western medical treatment typically begins with over-the-counter pain relievers and ice applied to the painful neck muscles to reduce swelling. If pain persists, prescription medications, massage therapy, and physiotherapy may be recommended, and possibly cortisone shots in more severe problems.

With whiplash, acupuncture is very helpful in preventing an acute problem from turning into a chronic problem. There are many factors which can contribute weakness or vulnerability in the neck when a trauma such as whiplash is experienced. Firstly, the neck has attributes of both flexibility and strength, two factors that conflict because the required flexibility of the neck has been gained at the expense of some strength, leaving the area naturally somewhat vulnerable.

Also, the neck is the part of the spine most likely to be exposed to wind and cold, both of which can lead to or aggravate pain or problems in the neck. Emotions such as stress and anger may also contribute to neck pain, as it is common for us to hold our tension in the neck and shoulders. Many important meridians pass through the neck on their way to and from the head, so internal imbalances in our body may also show up as symptoms in the neck area. All of these factors contribute to how well our body heals from whiplash, and whether or not this condition leads to a chronic problem.

Acupuncture can help to relieve inflammation and release the stiffness and tension of the neck, relieving the pain of whiplash usually within a few treatments. Additional treatments help to further strengthen the neck, improving circulation of energy and blood to the area, so that the neck is better able to heal the injury and recover fully.

Ice in the first 48 hours will help with the inflammation, but after that acupuncturists typically do not recommend icing, as we see the extreme cold as potentially aggravating to the pain and stiffness. Usually, heat is recommended instead in order to relax the muscles and promote circulation. Massage is also very helpful for neck injuries, particularly chronic disorders and acupuncture and massage complement each other very well.

A series of acupuncture treatments can typically help to resolve whiplash, though the exact number of treatments needed depends on a number of factors including how long the injury has been present as well as a person’s age and overall health. However, acupuncture offers real relief for whiplash sufferers and can help to minimize the neck’s vulnerability to future injury.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

2 02, 2010

Migraines

Migraines are severe, chronic headaches that can cause significant pain for 4 to 72 hours. The frequency with which these headaches occur varies from person to person, from several times a month to much less frequently. A typical migraine attack may include symptoms of moderate to severe pain on one or both sides of the head, head pain with a pulsating or throbbing quality, pain that worsens with physical activity, pain that interferes with regular activities, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

A migraine may be preceded by sensations of “premonition” several hours or a day or so before the migraine actually strikes, such as auras (changes to vision, such as seeing flashes of light, and feelings of pins and needles in an arm or leg), feelings of elation or intense energy, cravings for sweets, thirst, drowsiness, or irritability or depression.

Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Although much about the cause of migraines isn't understood, genetics and environmental factors seem to both play a role. They may be due to changes in the trigeminal nerve, a major nerve in the head or imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin (which drops during migraines). Migraines may be more common in people under 40, in women, and in people with a family history of migraines. Stress, certain foods, strong stimuli (such as lights, sounds or smells), disruptions to sleeping patterns, physical exertion, changes in the weather, medications, and hormonal changes can all trigger migraines.

Western medicine treatment for migraines includes medications to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Unfortunately, medications may cause side effects such as abdominal pain or ulcers or rebound headaches, which is when a medication stops being effective for the treatment of headaches and actually becomes the cause of headaches. Lifestyle changes that can help manage migraines include being well-rested and getting enough sleep, meditation or muscle relaxation exercises, and keeping a diary to identify migraine triggers.

From a Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, migraines can be caused by a combination of inherited constitution and lifestyle factors such as diet and stress, including emotional stress and overwork. Over time these factors can contribute to a pattern of imbalance that leads to migraines. Because there are different causes for migraines, the symptoms that are experienced will differ from person to person, and so will the treatment. An acupuncturist can create a very targeted and effective treatment by catering it to a person’s specific causes.

For migraine sufferers, acupuncture is an option well worth considering, offering both immediate and long-term relief. Initially, acupuncture can help to relieve both the severity and frequency of migraine symptoms. In fact, it is common for people to see relief after a few acupuncture treatments, although more treatments are typically needed to resolve the problem.

As treatments progress and begin to rebalance the body, the frequency of migraine episodes begins to decrease. And long-term relief is possible- many patients reduce or eliminate their need for migraine medication through acupuncture, demonstrating just how effective an option acupuncture can be.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

12 05, 2009

Headaches

Headaches are a common ailment and can make life very difficult. Headaches can have a wide range of causes, but often the causes are not well understood by Western medicine, and in most cases do not have an identifiable underlying physical cause. To make matters worse, headaches can often be a rebound effect of the very medication that people take to relieve them. Medications are usually the standard treatment method, however some chronic daily headaches are resistant to all medications.

Fortunately, acupuncture can offer both immediate as well as long-term relief. In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a number of factors are always considered in headaches. These are constitution, emotions, overwork, diet, accidents, childbirth and external pathogenic factors (such as common cold). There are a few ways to diagnose the cause of headaches, one is according to the where the headache is located on the head and which meridian is being affected, another is according to the pain type. 

A headache on the top of the head is part of the liver channel and is commonly due to a liver-blood deficiency; this type of headache gives a dull pain and will usually improve when lying down. A headache on the sides of the head indicates gallbladder channel and is commonly due to too much heat or fire in the liver. This headache will be sharp and/or throbbing.

Headache behind the eyes, a frequent location for migraines, is also due to liver-blood deficiency if the pain is dull, or liver heat if the pain is sharp and severe. The forehead is part of the stomach channel and is either a stomach deficiency if the headache is dull, or stomach heat if it is sharp.

The back of the head is part of the bladder channel and if headaches in this area are chronic, it usually indicates a kidney deficiency manifesting on that channel. An acute headache on the back of the head is most commonly due to exposure to cold weather and usually indicates the beginning stage of a common cold.

If the whole head is affected and the pain is chronic, it is due to a kidney-essence deficiency. The kidney essence is said to nourish the brain, if it is deficient and the brains lack this nourishment there will be a chronic dull headache with a sensation of emptiness.

When diagnosing according to pain type, dull pain means deficiency. A feeling of heaviness is characteristic of dampness or phlegm obstructing the head and preventing proper circulation. A distending headache that is throbbing, bursting, or pulsating is typically due to the liver (liver-heat). Stabbing headaches with a sensation of very intense pain and fixed in one location are due to blood stasis. Stiffness or tension headache is commonly due to overactive heat in the liver if chronic and invasion of cold if acute. 

There are other factors that can be used in understanding headaches such as what aggravates or eliminates the headaches, including time of day, activity/rest, weather, emotions, food, posture, time of month, and if there is relief or more pain with palpation.

Overall, this analysis gives an acupuncturist a very accurate picture of what is causing the headaches, therefore treatment is very targeted and effective. In fact, it is common for people to see relief after one or a few acupuncture treatments, although more treatments are often needed to resolve the problem. And long-term relief is possible- many patients reduce or eliminate their need for headache medication through acupuncture, demonstrating the effectiveness of this safe and natural therapy.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.