There are four main types of headache: tension, cluster, sinus and migraine. And, there are varying triggers for these headaches, such as food, stress, hormones, dehydration and weather. Fortunately, eliminating the triggers and finding natural ways to prevent and help an ongoing headache are possible.

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Tension: Tension headaches are the most common and are the result of impinged blood flow due to muscle tightness and contraction. Tension headaches are mild to moderate and are most commonly found behind the neck, on the forehead, behind the eyes and the top of the shoulders. Causes of tension headaches are stress, fatigue, cold, poor posture, skipping meals, and dehydration.

Cluster: Cluster headaches are the most severe and commonly affect men under the age of 30. Cluster headaches are usually one-sided and are accompanied by watery eyes, a red face and affect the face where the trigeminal nerve travels. Cluster headaches last days, weeks, even months and happen the same time every day, multiple times a day. Research shows the hypothalamus is involved in these types of piercing headaches. Causes include alcohol and smoking.

Sinus: Sinus headaches are from a sinus infection and feel like painful pressure around the eyes, cheeks, forehead, teeth and may have other symptoms such as post-nasal drip, congestion with green mucus or fever. The mucus is trapped in the sinuses causing inflammation, which creates the painful pressure.

Migraine: Migraines are another severe type of headache. What differentiates a migraine from a tension headache is the accompanying symptoms such as visual disturbances and auras prior to onset, increased sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting and one-sided throbbing pain. Triggers may include hormonal changes, food sensitivity, weather, iron deficiency or thyroid issues.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the goal is to get to the root of the headache, not just treat the symptoms. There is a diagnosis and treatment plan based on a history, as well as a pulse and tongue diagnosis. Typical triggers for all types of headaches are wind, cold, heat and damp conditions either internally or externally. A wind type headache would be moving, a damp type would feel heavy, and a cold type would feel piercing and worse with cold conditions. Blood deficiency, which is a type of anemia, might also cause headaches, as the blood is not nourishing the head. Blood stagnation, which would be a severe headache, can also be a factor. After diagnosing the correct cause of the headache, a Chinese medical practitioner would apply acupuncture and offer herbs or other type of treatment to facilitate blood flow and alleviate pain. There would also be dietary advice and maybe some acupressure self-care.

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Some foods and supplements have been shown to help headaches. These include B3,  magnesium, potassium, calcium, spicy foods, ginger and watery foods. A common herb for migraines is the magnolia flower. Others include lavender, peppermint, feverfew and basil. 

Acupressure around the eyes, temples and in the web between the thumb and forefinger are helpful. Pressing the hollows of the neck with the thumbs can relieve the pressure, as well as visualizing hot energy flowing downward from the head and out the feet while making a “whooooooo” sound (breathlessly, as if blowing on a candle).

Reducing stress is a key factor; do some deep breathing exercises and take a walk in nature. It is best to see a health care practitioner and not to self-diagnose or take herbs without consultation. A headache could indicate something serious.

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Most people have heard of the field of acupuncture by now, but did you realise that it is a part of Chinese medicine, and includes so much more than needles? Let’s explore this ancient therapy.

Firstly, the practice of Chinese medicine starts with a diagnosis. The practitioner asks many questions to build a picture of the person; questions about digestion, appetite, diet, sleep patterns, bowel movements, urination, pain, lifestyle and stress levels, for example. The acupuncturist will also be noting the voice pitch, hair lustre, skin colour and tone, as well as the posture and mood of the patient and any significant odour. After that, there is a pulse and tongue analysis to determine where the energetic imbalances are. When the history taking is complete, a diagnosis and treatment plan is determined. What might be included in this plan?

Needles: Acupuncture needles are very fine, sterile, painless and safe. They are, of course, the main component of the treatment plan. They are placed into certain acupuncture points on the body, either locally (at the pain site) or distally (away from the pain). The needles are retained anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes and most find the treatment to be relaxing and calming.

Herbal formulas: Chinese medicine includes the use of herbal formulas. The herbs and acupuncture needles work together to bring the body into harmony naturally. Herbal formulas come in either patent formulas, or the practitioner will make you your own formula.

Nutritional counselling: In Chinese medicine, food is medicine, and if you don’t get an herbal remedy, you will probably get dietary advice tailored to your specific constitution. For example, if someone has a pale tongue with a white coating, and it is puffy with teeth marks on the side, this might indicate this person has too much cold in the stomach, which is hampering the digestive fire. Chinese medicine rates food according to its temperature, season, colour, shape and whether it’s right for your individual body. Cold foods include too many cold, raw vegetables, iced drinks and smoothies. A food such as ginger might be a nice addition to one’s diet in this case.

Cupping and Gua Sha: Cupping uses bamboo, plastic or glass cups heated with a small flame to create a suction on the skin. This dissipates stagnation of blood and lymph fluid, promotes blood flow, eases stiffness, encourages better circulation to muscles and tissues, and feels great. It leaves a purple bruise and “cup” mark, only temporarily.

Gua sha uses a flat edged tool that is scraped in one direction on the skin, usually on large areas such as the back. Gua sha is used for many ailments, but especially for pain and stiffness. It removes blood stagnation and promotes the smooth flow of oxygen and blood. Waste and toxins are removed, and the scraping helps circulate fluid and nutrients, encouraging micro-circulation in soft tissue areas. Gua sha can be used on the face for health and beauty, as well.

Moxibustion: Moxibustion is heated mugwort and comes in many forms. Usually this smoky herb is held over an area of the body to warm and circulate. It’s great for menstrual cramps, cold conditions and chronic pain.

As you can see, the wide practice of acupuncture is much more than just needles. In addition to the above mentioned treatments, some practitioners use massage techniques and a form of manipulation called Tui Na, or acupressure.

At Shen Acupuncture & Naturopathy Clinics we are passionate about health and wellbeing and use a natural and holistic approach to improving health and treating illness. We use a combination of natural healing techniques to help restore balance to the body and mind.

These include acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping therapy, dietary and lifestyle advice, flower remedies and cell salts.

Our treatments are tailored to the specific needs of each individual based on their physical, mental and emotional state of health. Helping restore your health naturally.

All our therapists are fully qualified and registered acupuncturists.

We offer Fertility Acupuncture, Auricular Acupuncture, Cosmetic Acupuncture, Electro Acupuncture, as well as treatments in Flower Essences, Cell Salts, and Dietry & Lifestyle advice.