Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Acupuncture and Migraine






Acupuncture and Migraine is a sophisticated medicine for a complicated disease.
By Brian Benjamin Carter, MSci, LAc

Brian is the founder of the Pulse of Oriental Medicine. He teaches at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and maintains a private acupuncture and herbal practice in San Diego, California, and is the author of Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure.
Acupuncture and migraine sufferers really should get together more often! Acupuncture is good not only for the headache, but for the various types of migraine auras, AND for preventing migraines.

For information about the western medicine ideas about the cause of migraine, stats on migraines, the symptoms of migraines, warning signs of more serious problems, and preventing migraines, check out this article.

Acupuncture and migraine treatment, like all acupuncture, is based on the principles and theories of Chinese medicine. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the causes are emotional excesses (stress, long-term emotional disturbance, even just long-term frustration!), dietary imbalance (too much of the wrong foods and too little of the right ones), and the deficiencies inherent in the aging process can lead to the symptoms of migraine.

Acupuncture and migraine may be different for acute attacks, and for prevention. There is acupuncture to treat, for example, a one-sided headache, and then a slightly different acupuncture to treat the susceptibility to stress that causes it.

Acupuncture and Migraine - The Pain "Reset Button"

A neurologist told us in a guest lecture at my alma mater, the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, that acupuncture is the best therapy for chronic pain. He said that chronic pain signals can get 'grooved in' to the brain. That means that even after the real problem has been totally eliminated, the brain may still be "echoing" pain signals to us. This fits with Oliver Sach's observation that migraine is like a neurological 'frame of mind' or arrangement that the migraineur keeps falling into.

Acupuncture can act as a 'reset button' to end these echoes of pain. The sooner you get acupuncture, the better, because the longer the pain is there, the more difficult it is to change.

In Chinese Medicine, we diagnose each patient according to what is called a pattern of imbalance, a group of symptoms. There are 5 basic patterns involved in migraines, but real people are complex and may have several patterns going on at the same time.

Let's take a look at acupuncture and migraine in terms of the 5 patterns mentioned by Bob Flaws and Philippe Sionneau in their "Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases in TCM." Acupuncture is much more effective than acupressure, but in case you want to try out some of these points on yourself, you can massage them. Check out this link for the locations of these acupuncture and migraine points.

Acupuncture and Migraine pattern #1 - Liver depression, qi and blood deficiency

This is basically stress and frustration with bodily depletion. Common symptoms of this type of migraine include one sided headache, blurred vision, numbness and tingling of the fingers, emotional depression, stress, fatigue, and menstrual irregularities. Acupuncture and migraine for this type might include points like Liv3, LI4 or linggu, P6, GB20, GB39, and GB43.

Acupuncture and Migraine pattern #2 - Ascendant Liver yang

This migraine includes dizziness, sudden anger, light sensitivity, and ringing ears. Liver yang rises when the liver yin is deficient - and that happens over time from kidney yin deficiency, which can be due to overwork, too much sex, or too many warm herbs like ginseng and other sexual tonics. Too much coffee over a long period of time could contribute to this pattern, too (many people insist that coffee helps their migraines, and it can, but only temporarily. It may make underlying problems worse at the same time). Acupuncture and migraine for this type might include Liv2, K3, K6, GB39, and GB43.

Acupuncture and Migraine pattern #3 - Cold reversal pattern

This migraine features pain at the top of the head, feeling of chill during attack, vomiting clear liquids, and a sensitivity to wind. This is a sudden attack of migraine only. It happens when the influences of stress (liver) attack the digestion (spleen). Acupuncture and migraine here might include moxa on ST36, Ren6, Du20, K7, and needling P6 and Ren13.

Acupuncture and Migraine pattern #4 - Phlegm reversal pattern

This headache comes with dizziness, heavy-headedness, the feeling like there's a tight band wrapped around the head, vomiting of phlegm, stuffiness in the chest, and a lack of appetite. It's a severe complication of digestive deficiency. Phlegm comes from dampness, which is a diseased fluid problem due to poor digestion. Acupuncture and migraine to remedy this would be points like ST40, Sp9, L5, and ST36.

Acupuncture and Migraine pattern #5 - Blood stasis obstructing the network vessels

This is a stubborn, stabbing headache that doesn't change locations. It may be due to injury to the head, or blood may have stagnated due to qi stagnation. Points that fix this one are LI4, Sp6, SP10, and Liv3.

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About The PULSE
All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

Copyright 1999-2074, Pulse Media International, Brian Carter, MSci, LAc, Editor