Migraine is much more than just a headache. Typically, a migraine is one-sided, throbbing, moderate or severe debilitating pain, which is often accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, numbness, sensitivity to light and sound, and difficulty in speaking.
The headache that happens with migraine has a tendency to last for hours or even days. Women are more likely to get migraine than men. The manifestations of migraine are thought to be triggered by stress, insomnia, fatigue, weather changes, and menstruation.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Perspective of Migraine
TCM views the body in a different way. It keeps a holistic approach and treats the body and the mind as a whole. TCM was first developed thousands of years ago when doctors did not have much knowledge about the white blood cells or functioning of the body organs. Instead, a TCM doctoris trained to see the causes of disease as things they could observe in nature, for example, hot, cold, damp, or even a change in weather.
From a TCM point of view, migraine is caused mainly due to invasion of fire and wind which results in obstructions of the meridian pathway, thereby disturbing the flow of blood and ‘qi’ (life force), in the head.
In TCM, deficiencies in the functions of in liver, kidney, and spleen can also result in migraine.
Stagnation of Liver Qi
The liver regulates the circulation of the energy ‘qi’ and blood. It harmonizes emotions. The liver may get weak due to insufficient blood or negative emotions such as fear, anger, depression or anxiety. This may lead to slow down the ‘qi’ and blood circulation. Stagnation of ‘qi’ in the liver for a prolonged period leads to the creation of fire and ‘yang’ (force linked to heat and dryness). This fire disturbs the qi in head and trigger migraine.
Insufficient Brain Marrow
The kidneys produce the marrow which is needed by the brain. When the kidneys go weak due to poor constitution and chronic diseases, it is unable to produce enough marrow for brains. This causes a headache with severe pains in knees, dizziness, and tinnitus.
Production of Dampness
Spleen has a function of producing qi and blood from nutrients in the food. Due to fatigue, irregular meals or an imbalanced poor diet, it gets weak transforming nutrients into dampness and phlegm instead. This dampness then reaches the head,causing headaches with oppressive sensation in the chest, nausea and poor appetite.
The ‘qi’ and blood should be sufficient in the body for its proper functioning. When they get decreased, disease-causing external pathogenic factors such as wind, heat, cold, and dampness can invade the body and invoke migraine.
Treating Migraine with Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Long before the existence of modern treatments, traditional Chinese medicine had already sought the relief for migraine through acupuncture.From a TCM perspective, acupuncture works by restoring the circulation of qi and blood.
However, from a western medicine view, it affects the central nervous system to reduce the intensity and frequency of pain. Acupuncture helps in restoring the balance of certain neurotransmitters within the brain and release endorphins (morphine-like compounds), the natural painkillers of the body.
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting fine sterilized needles into the skin at specific acupuncture points or commonly known as acupoints. It promotes the blood flow in the tissues. The small blood vessels tend to dilate around the needle area thus increasing the blood flow.
The flow of positive energy through the body is sought and maintained by acupuncture. It stimulates the various systems of the body and triggers the healing response. It is also known to activate the brain pathways that blocks the pain and provides relief.
Besides acupuncture, Chinese medical herbs, cupping, or manual massage can help in improving conditions by strengthening body organs and dissipating pathogenic factors. Moreover, the causing factors of migraine such as poor diet, negative emotions, and environmental conditions should be avoided.
Meditation, listening to music and regular exercise such as swimming and brisk walking helps in improving qi and blood circulation.
Acupuncture is a safe and effective practice that reduces drug intake which has unwanted side effects. In addition, personalized approach for treatment makes acupuncture and TCM better option for migraine.