Headaches and migraines are common problems experienced by most people at some stage throughout their lives. There are a number of different causes for headaches and migraines, and there are a number of ways in which they can be treated using Chinese medicine.
Headaches are usually fairly mild, but always consult your doctor if you develop a sudden illnesses, some of which may be serious. For the everyday type of headache caused by tension, a simple Chinese Medicine remedy which you can make at home is spring onion tea. Use the white part of the plant only, and boil three or four onions in a mugful of water.
Headaches: – They are usually mild to moderate and can affect various parts of the head, depending upon the cause. There are a number of causes of headaches.
- Cold or Flu
- Muscular tension, bad posture
- Dehydration and hunger
- Eyesight problems
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Excessive consumption of painkillers
- Period or menopause.
Migraines: – These are described as moderate to severe headaches and can be very debilitating to patients who suffer with them. Around 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 15 men are affected by migraines. Some people experience only occasional migraines, while others can suffer frequently, with multiple migrains throughout the week. Headaches and migraines may be preceded by flashing lights, blurred vision and other visual disturbances such as an “aura” caused by temporary narrowing of the blood vessels to the brain. Immediately afterwards the arteries open up, allowing a gush of blood to the brain and causing a severe throbbing pain on one side of the head. The three main types of migraine are:
- Migraine with aura
- Migraine without aura
- Migraine aura without headache.
The exact mechanisms that cause migraines are poorly understood, but it is thought to relate to abnormal brain activity affecting nerve impulses, brain chemistry and blood circulation. Most patients recognise that there are certain triggers for their headaches and migraines. They can include:
- Hormonal changes
- Emotional triggers
- Physical triggers
- Dietary triggers.
In Chinese Medicine, headaches and migraines are caused by excessive Qi stagnation in the Liver and Gall Bladder which invades the Stomach. The pain above the eyes, or flashing lights with pain in the forehead or sides of the head, indicate, according to Chinese Medicine theory, involvement of the channels from the Liver and Gall Bladder. The nausea is caused by Liver invasion of the Stomach. They can also be cause by exterior factors affecting the head, such as Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat.
Treating Headaches and Migraines with TCM
Chinese Medicine treatment concentrates on strengthening and tonifying the Stomach, reducing the tension in the Liver, and moving the Qi from the Liver and Gallbladder. For cases of exterior related headaches, the focus of treatment would be to expel Wind and eliminate the Cold or Heat.
A Chinese Medicine practitioner will prescribe Ren Shen (Radix Ginseng), Fu Ling (Poria), Sheng Jiang (Rhizoma Zingiberis Recens) and Da Zao (Fructus Jujubae) for the Stomach; Huang Qin (Radix Scutellariae), Chai Hu (Radix Bupleuri) and strong purging herbs such as Long Dan (Radix Gentianae) for the Liver; with acupuncture for the headaches. This form of Chinese Medicine treatment has an encouraging success rate for migraine.
Acupuncture is also often very effective for headaches and migraines; and acupressure can achieve the same effect for people who are squeamish about needles, but herbal medicines can also be prescribed. A combination of these methods can often be highly successful. Chinese meditation techniques can also help.
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