Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks

Updated April 1, 2003








Migraine Headache in Child:
Taming Teenage Tension
by Brian Benjamin Carter, M.Sci, L.Ac.

Hi Brian,

I just read your migraine article. I have a 14 year old son who is having more and more severe migraines. He has missed so much school that he will most likely end up in summer classes which will stress him out even more! We tried acupuncture treatments for quite a while with a 4th generation Chinese Medical Doctor, but it really hasn't made the difference. This Doctor really does straight acupuncture and doesn't get into the herbs too much. He wanted to do 2 sessions per week, but $160.00 per week would drown me.

I am going to do the food allergy test, but convincing the kid to stay away from the sugar and dairy will be near impossible. He is a very resistant, stubborn kid. The pediatrician's method of handling this is to put him on Imitrex; the pain med/drug that cost $500 per bottle. I am at a loss! If I can't get this kid to cooperate, there won't be much hope. On top of this, he has insomnia quite often. If there is any other suggestion you might have, I'm all ears brother!


Acupuncture Treatment Plans and Treatment Cost

Follow-up visits can be that expensive, but they don't have to be. It depends on how the acupuncturist manages their practice, and their patients' treatment plans.

For your situation, I would try to find an acupuncturist who will do more frequent treatments at a lower rate. If they follow a treatment plan, using the same treatment for several weeks, all they have to do is put the needles in and go on to the next patient. For patients with no insurance or work-comp, and with financial need, that may be a win-win solution.

Why does that happen anyway? Some acupuncturists re-evaluate everything on every visit. This is usually unneccesary. If the acupuncturist does a comprehensive first-visit (which can be expensive), creates a focused treatment plan, and follows it, they don't have to re-evaluate every time. Acupuncturists can see more patients per hour, and patients can pay less per visit.

Triptans Aren't the Whole Answer to Migraines

The triptans are indeed expensive- plus in my experience, they're not the whole answer. I have used them when I get an aura (warning symptoms of migraine), or in an acute migraine attack, but they don't appear to prevent future migraine, or even address all the symptoms of migraine.

Herbs to Treat and Prevent Migraines

I was able to get my own migraines under control recently with very large doses of the liquid herbs- I had a migraine every day for 2 weeks, and was taking excedrin, triptans... doing acupuncture on myself... but the high doses of herbs PLUS modifying my behavior and attitude has made a difference.

As I said in the first migraine article (more or less), there is prevention, and there is treatment. Looks like the treatments available to you are too expensive, unless you can change that (different acupuncturist).

Preventing Migraines

For prevention, you have to get him to cooperate with you. I don't know much about this- kids are still on the future list. But there must be books, etc.

It is possible- not sure from your description- but possible that the migraines and stubbornness go together. Check out also my Wood Type article- see if that sounds like him- if so, there are prevention/lifestyle ideas in there that may help.

Chinese medicine is body/mind, so the acupuncture and herbal treatments have an effect on the mental/emotional component too.

Teenage Hormonal Migraine?

I wonder if hormones can have anything to do with it... you'd have to have blood tests done to check the levels. I just bring it up because of his age, and the typical hormonal changes at that time. Currently the only hormone related migraine problem in the literature is menstrual, but who knows what they'll find out in the future. And if his migraines resist treatment, you'd be looking for anything and everything as a cause. If it's cheap, you might ask your regular doc about investigating this.

As neurologist Oliver Sachs (of the Robin Williams, Robert Deniro "Awakenings" film fame- he wrote the book) says, migraines can be triggered by multiple causes, and it's as if the neurology is bent toward the migraine configuration. So you have to keep the causes under control.

Controlling Migraine Causes

  1. Emotions - Do enjoyable, manageable tasks- especially ones that are satisfying. Review your attitudes toward life and those around you. Watch out for guilt and frustration, overthinking. Journal or do therapy to get to the bottom of these feelings. Only then can you undo them. The major emotions to watch out for are those related to the Earth and Wood phases; See this article on the Wood Phase. Although focused on sweet cravings, this article does introduct the Earth phase.
  2. Neck Tension - If there's a structural problem (vertebral misalignment), the muscles can get tight... this could be worsened by certain activities- better to move around a lot, get adjusted by a chiropractor. Neck tension can also be related to posture (ergonomics) and stress (see #1 above).
  3. Food Reactions - Keep a food diary that records foods side-by-side with a rating of the level of migraine (present or not, how bad on a scale of 1-1, even features: whether it's primarily head pain, digestion, visual, etc.). You may find weird causes- e.g. I can't drink coffee and then eat swiss or cottage cheese without getting head-pressure that could lead to a migraine. In Chinese medicine, we'd see that as Spleen (digestive) deficiency plus Liver heat leading to Phlegm-heat misting the mind. Remember that food allergies can take 3 days to show up, so a blood test is the only sure way. But I had one and didn't have any serious allergies- at least to the foods they tested me on.
  4. Rest - You can't drive yourself on and on without rest. And if you have insomia, you're running on empty. You have to make yourself rest, and deal with the insomnia. Insomnia is very responsive to acupuncture and herbs.

All the best!


For more, read the original Migraine article.



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