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
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.
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.
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.
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.