Headaches According to Chinese Medicine
Headaches are incredibly common and affect millions of people every year. To be exact, 45 million nationwide (according to ihateheadaches.org). That’s a staggering number! I also read on migraine.com that out of that many people, 18% of sufferers are women and 6% are men which is quite interesting. There could be tons of reasons why you have headaches, and it’s just a matter of getting to the bottom of what’s going on.
Like many ailments, our approach is similar: we do a full intake to try and understand where the headache is coming from. We ask questions like: Where is the pain? How long does it last? When does it happen? What helps or hurts? Etc, etc. There are two things going on when someone suffers from headaches: the root and the branch. The root refers to the reason WHY the headache is occuring. The branch refers to the actual pain you experience. From there, we treat based on what the imbalance is that we see happening in your system.
Below are some common Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis for each of Karen’s top 5 headache causes, along with treatments that usually help! That being said, not everyone fits into a cookie cutter diagnosis. This is why we encourage you to get a full intake to see what might be most effective when treating your headaches specifically. We want to get to the bottom of what YOUR “root” diagnosis is and treat it appropriately! Here’s a few examples of the diagnoses we see with each main type:
Dehydration could be a “Qi Deficiency” or meaning there’s just not enough energy circulating through the body (because you haven’t had enough water) and its affecting the head! Surprise, surprise. In cases like this, we usually add in moxibustion (that smokey herb we burn) because it nourishes the system more.
Sinus headaches are usually aggravated by allergies, colds, the flu, things of that nature. Most of the time with sinus headaches, people usually experience pressure and fullness. We call this “damp” in TCM. Just as it sounds, there’s an accumulation of dampness, or phlegm, boogers, etc that won’t come out. In this sort of condition, we use needles in the face to help disperse that inflammation and fullness.
Tension Headaches are mostly related to what we call “Qi Stagnation” or when the energy flow in the body is getting stuck! Usually this occurs mostly in the neck and shoulders and can pull on the base of the skull, thus causing pain at the back of the head or temples. We use a lot of “trigger point therapy” for this type of headache. Meaning: when Karen and I get a muscle to twitch and release the hold its got on your body! Cupping is a great way to help with tension headaches as well.
Hormonal headaches. This one is so tricky to pin down just one diagnosis or even two. This is one of those headache categories that could easily have 10 or more different reasons they’re happening according to TCM. At the most basic level, we have to determine if your headaches are coming from a stagnant place or depleted place, so we know how to best to treat them! Rest assured, needles and/or moxa are involved. Or both!
Hangovers!! Hmm… can’t say that I treat this THAT often anymore. Usually people aren’t super pumped to come to acupuncture when they’re hungover, but if they did, it would help!! Treatment for hangovers definitely falls under the “stagnation” or “damp” category, so just your average needling will do! Added bonus: you get an acupuncture nap to help sleep it off.
Is there a headache for wedding planning??? Just kidding. But for the record that falls under “Qi stagnation!”
If you suffer from headaches, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor or Naturopath if they are moderate to severe in nature - just to rule out anything serious. In the meantime, schedule an appointment if headaches are a problem for you or a family member or friend! We can help with the pain and eventually harmonize the pattern to make them go away completely.