Acupuncture for Migraineurs
“Alice: I simply must get through!
Doorknob: Sorry, you’re much too big. Simply impassible.
Alice: You mean impossible?
Doorknob: No, impassible. Nothing’s impossible.”
Some say Lewis Caroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” may not have been the same without his periodical attacks of migraine. It takes a superhuman resistance to pain to survive one. Then, miracles might as well come from such fierce pain.
As they come and go migraines leave an indelible mark on our lives. In fact, if there existed some kind of ranking for pain level, migraines would surely get the gold medal. People describe them as the kind of pain that makes you want to hit your head against the wall to have the pain go away. There is even a special name for us, the condemned, borrowed from French, and that is Migraineur. Now doesn’t that make you feel a little better?
Headaches can be split into two general groups, namely primary and secondary. Migraines belong to the primary one, along with tension, cluster, and trigeminal headaches. International Migraine Society (unfortunately, yes, there is such a society) further classifies migraines into common migraine, classic migraine, and specific migraine. They differ slightly but they all have in common repetitive attacks, gastrointestinal symptoms, certain visual disturbances, and may or may not have premonitory symptoms.
WHO (World Health Organization) recommends the use of acupuncture as one of the effective therapies in treating migraines. If combined with Tuina (Chinese medical massage) and herbs, results are greatly enhanced.
Chinese Medicine Diagnosis
The etiology of the disease should be assessed and the possibility of organic disease, such as tumors, vascular diseases, infection, etc. excluded.
Chinese Medicine will then make a diagnosis based on:
- What area the headache is located in, such as frontal, temporal, vertex or even the whole head.
- The nature of the headache such as throbbing, stabbing, distending, dull, or severe unbearable pain
- The duration of the headache, which can vary from minutes to hours, days, even weeks…
- All other associated symptoms
Treatments must necessarily take into account all the above factors rather than just the one symptom, which is migraine. What needs to be emphasized is that migraine is a symptom, not a disease, and when considered in relation with all the other symptoms present, it leads to a complex and all-embracing diagnosis. Depending on the pattern identified, treatments are tailored to the specific issues of each and every individual patient.
Here are some of the patterns most common in clinical experience:
- Hyperactivity of Liver Yang – distending headache, irritability, red eyes, bitter taste in the mouth, red complexion, etc.
- Syndrome of Phlegm Turbidity – heavy headache, nausea and/or vomiting, poor appetite, etc.
- Syndrome of Kidney Deficiency – empty headache, dizziness, low back and knee weakness or soreness, fatigue, etc.
- Syndrome of Blood Stasis – stabbing, constant pain, dark purple tongue, etc.
- Syndrome of Qi and Blood Deficiency – dull pain, aggravated by fatigue, poor appetite, fatigue, palpitation, etc.
These patterns are just examples and the symptoms presented are only brief presentations. There could be additional symptoms present that your practitioner will be able to asses. Besides, a patient does not need to experience all these symptoms to be diagnosed with a specific pattern. What matters more is the combination of these specific symptoms.
Diagnosis can also be made based on the different acupuncture meridians found in the human body. The above diagnosis, based on organs, is intrinsically related to meridians. A complex and complete diagnosis is born of the marriage between science and art.
One of the most effective folk remedies is dipping the hands in warm water for about 20 minutes. Add hot water periodically to keep the water temperature high for that specific amount of time.
Some tips on relieving headaches are offered in Safe and Effective Ways to Treat Migraine Headache.
In general, some sufferers may benefit from avoiding contraceptive and vasodilator drugs, and foods that have tryptophan, tyrosine, glutamic acid, monosodium glutamate, as well as some alcoholic and caffeine-containing drinks.
Here we are, back from what I trust was an informative journey in the world of migraines. I rest my case here, but allow me to leave you with some food for thought: If Alice sprang up out of a migraine, I wonder what amazing totally unheard of miracles lay ahead of YOU on the road to healing?
Illustration of Migraine – Treated with Acupuncture, Moxibustion and Tuina Massage, Cui Chengbin, Xing, Xiaomin, People’s Military Medical Press, 2009, China
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