Migraine sufferers know that the pain can be debilitating. These painful headaches are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and changes in vision. They usually begin on one side of the head and may become worse with exposure to light. Sometimes the pain from migraines becomes so severe that the person is unable to do anything but lie in bed. Women suffer from migraines more than men at a 4-to-1 ratio.
Triggers include physical or emotional stress, nutritional deficiencies, allergic reactions, bright lights, loud noises, odors or perfumes, changes in sleeping patterns, smoking or smoke exposure, skipping meals, alcohol, menstrual cycle, birth control pills, and menopause-related hormonal fluctuations.
Chinese medicine and migraine headaches
Chinese medicine offers simple and effective remedies for treatment. Acupuncturists think about headaches as “Fire flowing up”; therefore treatment is to cool the fire down. Sometimes the cause is dampness interrupting the blood flow. This can all be determined at the time of the patient’s visit through the acupuncturist’s diagnostic skill.
Cool the fire and take charge
Here are several methods you can employ to greatly reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches, or even totally eliminate them:
1) Avoid fire-inducing foods. Red meat, processed foods, spices, alcohol, soda, refined sodium and sugars and all other refined foods should all be greatly cut down or eliminated from the diet.
2) Eat cooling foods from nature such as vegetables, fruits, wild fish, organic meats, whole-grain breads and other foods that are as minimally processed as possible. Read food labels to make sure there are no chemicals.
3) Meditate 20-30 minutes a day to calm the mind and cool the fire energies of the body. Chinese medicine encourages giving one’s mind time off at least half an hour every day.
4) Practice deep abdominal breathing several times per day. Breathing is another method used in Chinese medicine and martial arts to cool down the fire during training or a battle and to increase endurance, health and longevity. Practicing breath holding for 3-5 seconds every few breaths can go a long way to keeping the fire energies of the body in check.
5) Take herbs such as ginger. Ginger tea is excellent for the dizziness than often accompanies migraine headaches.
6) Use acupuncture and acupressure points to help balance chi flow. Pressure on the connective webbing located between the thumbs and forefingers can relieve mild to moderate headaches. Use moderate pressure for 30-60 seconds on each hand. Pressing on points at the base of the back of the skull where the bone goes into the softer tissue of the neck can be extremely effective at alleviating migraine attacks. In some cases this has been known to cure chronic migraines with only one application.
7) Drink more water. Chronic dehydration is another major cause of headaches. Soda, coffee or tea do not count as drinking water. Water purifies the bloodstream, flushes out toxins and keeps the blood flowing more smoothly throughout the system.
8) Get a good night’s sleep.
9) Slow motion exercises such as yoga, tai chi, and the Feldenkrais Method have a strong calming effect on all the organs of the body and especially the mind.
10) Pray for others and heal yourself. Praying for others connects you with them and helps you understand their suffering. This in and of itself has a healing component to it.
By Arwa Atwan
Arwa Atwan is an Ohio licensed acupuncturist and a national board certified NCCAOM practitioner. She sees patients at Future Life Now in Northside.