Acupuncture & Migraines

What are Migraines?

Migraines are a specific type of headache that lasts 4-72 hours, is throbbing in nature and moderate to severe in intensity, is one-sided, and is worse with exertion. Migraines may also be associated with nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. In order to be diagnosed as suffering from migraines, one only needs to experience 3-4 of these symptoms. They occur more in women than men and mostly between 10-40 years of age. More than 50% of migraineurs have a family history of this disorder.

What Causes Them?

According to Western medicine, the cause of migraines is unknown and their mechanisms are poorly understood. Triggers include cycling estrogen, insomnia, changes in barometric pressure, and hunger. While there is a wide spread belief that certain foods, such as chocolate, cheese, and red wine, may trigger migraines, research has not confirmed this belief.

How Does Chinese Medicine See Migraines?

In Chinese medicine, most migraines are due to an upward counterflow of qi (pronounced "Che")/energy into the head. This upwardly counterflowing qi is usually due to liver depression and its various complications. In women, blood vacuity (lack of blood) not nourishing the liver is often the cause or trigger of this upward counterflow. As this yang qi ascends to fill up the bony box of the head, it may draft with it dampness, phlegm, and turbidity. If this congestion recurs over a long period of time, it may also result in the formation of blood stasis (stuck blood) in the channels and network vessels of the head.

How Does Chinese Medicine Treat Migraines?

Because each patient presents with their own unique combination of Chinese medical disease mechanisms, the first step in treating migraines with acupuncture and Chinese medicine is to do a personalized pattern discrimination. It is professional pattern discrimination which allows the Chinese medical practitioner to determine the exact right combination of therapies for each patient. Lifestyle modifications to treat the underlying root of the condition would be addressed, particularly diet. Often, acupuncture can abort or decrease migraine pain within minutes of insertion of the needles.