|Sheila is a 28 year old female who has been experiencing
cluster headaches for the past 11 years. Her headaches begin
every year in late July and generally last until the end of
autumn. During this period she experiences headaches multiple
times per day, usually worse in the late evening and early
Her headaches are stabbing and sharp and were rated a 10 on a
scale of 1 to 10. This past year she was having headaches all
the way through the winter months. She first called my office
in January while in the middle of an episode and I was able to
see her that same day.
During the evaluation she revealed that she had been in numerous
motor vehicle accidents in which she sustained injuries to her
head, including concussions. She was quick to mention that all
the western doctors that she informed of this fact discounted
it. They assured her that her head trauma years before was not
related to her present condition. Later in the interview she mentioned
that her major car accident occurred in the month of July. She
believed strongly that her accidents had something to do with
her headaches and was relieved when I agreed.
Initial Visit, Diagnosis and Treatment
Sheila presented as an aggressive young woman with a "shouting"
voice. Her pain was located on the left side of her head and was
fixed in location on the Gallbladder channel just posterior to
extra point Tai Yang. She also revealed that she experienced neck
and occipital pain, both also on the Gallbladder meridian. Sheila
reported very few other symptoms, except for a history of genital
herpes, acne on her face and upper back, and a lack of appetite.
I diagnosed her primarily with local qi and blood stagnation in
the Gallbladder channel. The acupoints chosen on the first treatment
were Ren 17, right HT 8 ashi, left Gallbladder 34, and Yamomoto
New Scalp Acupuncture point Yin A. After the insertion of the
needles the pain had disappeared.
By the next visit (3 days later) Sheila was still pain free.
Sheila had no headaches for the next 3 weeks (with acupuncture
treatments two times per week). I prescribed Tong Qiao Huo Sheila
ue Tang powder during this time.
At the four week mark, Sheila was experiencing a great deal of
stress in her job and well as relationship trouble with her boyfriend.
Her headaches were absent, but she did have some twinges in her
head and was fearful of their return. On two occasions she felt
a mild aching at the same location while reading at night in her
The Emotional Cause Emerges
Sheila revealed a lot of new information when we talked about
her stress. She admitted to a great deal of unexplainable anger
over the past few years . She also admitted to being unable to
cry for 10 years. She was not able to express any emotion other
than anger. She recounted a very painful childhood during which
she cried every day. At age 18, she decided not to cry anymore
and completely suppressed that emotion. Since then, anger has
been the predominant theme. She also mentioned that the problems
with her boyfriend revolved around her not being able to be emotionally
intimate. She was unable to relax during sexual activity, and
thus prevented from achieving an orgasm.
During the treatments, I decided to expand my treatment strategy
to harmonize her Liver and calm her spirit. While continuing to
use right HT 8, I added right HT 7, left SJ 3, left Liver 3, and
right Gallbladder 41. After insertion of the needles I asked her
if she felt anything. She said she felt like crying (but she suppressed
it in the office). Later the next day she had an emotional catharsis
and cried for over an hour. Afterwards, she reported feeling "great"
and "much relieved."
During the following visit, she divulged some more information
about her health history. The reason for her painful childhood
was an emotionally unstable mother who traumatized her and her
siblings. The stories were horrifying. She has not spoken to her
mother in many years.
With acupuncture treatments, I added points to strengthen the
earth element (Spleen 3 and Stomach 36). To solidify her treatment,
I prescribed TCM
Formulas liquid combination of Si Jun Zi Tang (1/3), Tao Hong
Si Wu Tang (1/3) and Shu Gan Wan (1/3). Since then, Sheila has
not experienced even a twinge of a headache, and has been able
to gain greater intimacy and emotional expression.
My original thoughts on Sheila had been Gallbladder channel stagnation
due to local physical trauma. Over the course of the first 4 weeks
and with Sheila deciding to no longer withhold vital pieces of
her past and intimate life with me, I was able to understand her
case more completely. While the trauma most definitely was real
and caused the location of the stagnation to be localized to the
left Gallbladder channel, the catalyst for her problem was much
deeper. Her weak earth element (the inability to be nourished
by her own mother as a child) had allowed the wood (Liver/Gallbladder)
to become excessive. And the suppression of the metal element
(refusing to cry) coupled with metal not being nourished by earth,
left wood unchecked across the control cycle. Thus, the Liver/Gallbladder
became dominant in her expressions (anger, shouting voice, aggressive
behavior, inability to relax/flow, genital herpes, cluster headaches).
The most natural place for any physical symptom of stagnation
to appear is the place where there has been prior injury/trauma
and compromised circulation ---- the Gallbladder channel of her
head. By also strengthening the Spleen/Stomach and Lung systems,
we were able to achieve lasting results.