Headaches are some of the worst kinds of pain, in my opinion.
There is something extra disorienting when your head feels like its going to explode. For many, headaches are a reoccurring problem and can even lead to impacting and impeding day to day living.
Whether you experience classic migraines, stress headaches, sinus headaches, or hormonal headaches, Traditional Chinese Medicine can help.
The first step is gathering some detailed information. These kinds of questions are the same for pain anywhere in the body, with some qualities that are unique to headaches. They might also be more detailed than you’re used to, but try not to overthink it. There are no right or wrong answers.
First, we look at the onset and time of day. Does it come on suddenly or is it gradual? Is it in the morning, evening or late at night?
Next, we look at the location. This will tell us which channels and organs are involved and help us narrow down how to best treat your specific headache. The nape and occipital area can come from tension in the shoulders, for example. That pain in the temples can be the liver and gall bladder area. The vertex/crown of the head can be liver blood deficiency. The forehead can be from your stomach channel, did you forget to eat or are you dehydrated? Finally, maybe you have sinus pain on your cheeks or jaw pain from grinding.
The quality and character of the pain is important. Is it throbbing, dull, sharp, and stabbing, or heavy feeling? This can point to things like blood stasis, dampness, yang rising, or an external invasion. Intensity of the pain is also important and a lot of times you will be asked to rate it on a scale from 1 to 10.
Finally, what things help or make the pain worse? Things like a heating pad, an ice pack, a dark room, rest, and water or food are common examples. If you take a pain killer, did it work in one dose, not at all, or after a double dose? Sometimes old school remedies can help, like Epsom salts or topical pain relievers.
This specific information is then combined with your personal health history to form a complete picture, so that you get the most effective treatment.
The most common causes that we always want to investigate are structural and postural factors, seasonal allergies, shifts in hormones, food allergies/sensitivities, swings in blood pressure and blood sugar, and possible side effects from various medications. Of course, stress makes any of the above worse, and can be a big instigator.
I want to mention some red flags here. These are signs that something serious might be happening and indicates the need for quick medical attention. Mainly, stroke signs, like drooping on one side of the face, confusion, and slurring speech. Thunderclap headaches, which are severe and come on suddenly need to be investigated, especially if there’s nausea and vomiting along with it. And lastly, if you experience a black curtain coming down over your field of vision, tunnel vision, or blurred vision, you need to seek medical attention.
Often, acupuncture and herbs can make a huge difference in the frequency and intensity of your headaches. Having a treatment during a migraine episode can make big improvements, even though it might sound scary. And believe it or not, acupuncture and herbs can outperform prescription drugs.
Remember, there is no cookie cutter treatment, it will be specific to you and your needs. And don’t give up! You CAN find relief from your headaches.