Dealing with migraines can literally be a pain. Worse than a normal headache, migraines tend to come with a variety of extra symptoms including light and sound sensitivity, dizziness, nausea, and others. Generally, the pain is extreme and to make matters worse the normal things that can help a headache don’t usually work with migraine. This can make them debilitating in some cases if they are bad enough that the only that helps is rest and a dark room to wait it out. While it is usually necessary to speak with a neurologist for evaluation about one’s condition and medications that can help to diminish them, speaking with your acupuncturist may offer some good complementary solutions to migraine pain.
Everybody is different from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, and therefore their disease presentation will be different, meaning even though 3 people all suffer from migraine, their symptoms and presentations can all be very different, and may have different causes from a TCM perspective. This also means that in TCM the treatments are individualized for the patient so that the treatment fits their presentation. So while there can be some variability from person to person, there are some general reasons why migraines appear from a TCM perspective.
The connection between pain and circulation
In general, when we are talking about Pain of any kind, we are dealing with a lack of good circulation, both blood circulation, and qi circulation. If we have good circulation, we shouldn’t have any pain, and vice versa. With Migraines, we are usually dealing with some type of what is referred to as Liver Blood Stasis. Liver Blood is basically the blood in your veins that is used to nourish the body, keep it moistened, and circulates through the skin, eyes, hair, and nails. In a stagnant or static condition, this lack of flow causes a backup in the system that can result in sharp, stabbing, fixed, or boring pain. Often times this will show up behind or near the eyes, which are considered an offshoot of the Liver.
Liver Blood Stagnation can come from a variety of conditions including high stress, poor diet, or traumatic injury. It can also come from an overall deficient state of blood, due to poor or weak digestion or a chronic illness.
In some cases, migraine can be complicated by something called Dampness. Dampness is generally thought of as accumulations of fluids and waste products that should be eliminated, but for one reason or another are retained. Those experiencing Dampness with their migraines can experience a Heaviness in the Head or a dizzy feeling. Other symptoms may include muscle heaviness or weakness, swelling or edema and poor digestion.
Acupuncture is an excellent way to work on regulating the circulation of blood and qi throughout the body. Often times the goal is to assess why the circulation is backed up, and then apply acupuncture points that can help to restore a normal and ordered flow. Usually, points on the hands and feet are selected combined with a few local points on the head or neck that provide some relief.
Ways in which acupuncture can help treat and prevent migraines
Acupuncture can work to both prevent migraines, keeping them at bay or delaying their occurrences, or to treat them acutely when they are happening. There are some great
acupuncture techniques using the ear that can immediately stop pain, including that from migraine.
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine can be a huge benefit to people suffering from Migraine. Similar to acupuncture points, herbs are selected based on the patient’s presentation and symptoms and combined into a customized formula that is designed to address both the patient’s specific symptoms as well as the underlying root issue from a TCM perspective.
So if you or someone you know suffers from migraines and are looking for relief, consider a call to a licensed acupuncturist or Chinese Herbal Medicine Specialist.