Classic Migraines are sometimes unresponsive to medication. People are now looking for other methods to relieve migraine pain for fear of taking medications for long periods of time and its side effects. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers an easy alternative with Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture having no side effects if prescribed properly by a fully registered TCM Practitioner.
Recent reports in March 2014 from a Melbourne Hospital trial showed Acupuncture was as effective as drugs in treating migraine, ankle and lower back pain.
Often people will attend the clinic saying their doctor or physio has given them acupuncture for headache pain. Although there are positives to some medical professionals embracing natural methods of pain relief, there is more to acupoint selection than just asking “Where does it hurt?” and tapping a needling in. Getting the right professional to do the job is important because they have a better understanding of what they’re doing when it comes to acupuncture.
Like Western medicine differentiates between headache types, so does Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Liver is often involved when further questioning is done by an acupuncturist, whereas an allied health professional won’t address the cause, only symptom alone.
Where Western & Eastern Medicine agrees is with the associated symptoms of Migraine.
The pain of a Classic migraine is characteristically one sided and throbbing with associated symptoms of aversion to light, sound and sometimes nausea and severe vomiting.
Hormonal Migraine is a migraine associated with hormone cycles & fluctuations such as menstruation, ovulation, the Pill, Pregnancy, HRT & Menopause.
Facial Migraine often is a migraine with specific pain around the nose, jaw and cheek.
In TCM, here’s why we take a closer look at the Liver system when it comes to Migraines.
- “Ensures smooth flow of qi and blood” meaning circulation and including the micro-circulation to the head and face. When there is migraine pain, on some level the circulation is sluggish and the Liver qi becomes “stuck”.
- Influences the digestion and when out of balance or sluggish can cause nausea and vomiting.
- Nourishes the eyes – light sensitivity, visual auras, spots, sparks, strobing and floaters in vision, pain behind the eyes can be eased by treating the Liver system.
- Governs cycles in the body, especially hormone cycles in women, including menstruation and its timing, hormone fluctuations, PMT severity and emotional fragility.
Some effective Liver herbs to help migraine include:
Dang Gui (Dong Quai Root): Moves stagnant Liver blood and Nourishes blood production. Analgesic, anti-spasmodic.
Chuan Xiong (Ligusticum): Moves stuck Liver qi and blood and stops pain
Tian Ma (Gastrodia) : One sided headache with associated dizziness, anti-spasmodic herb.
Golden Bear Powder: Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis) & Chuan Lian Zi (Sichuan Chinaberry) Analgesic, Anti-spasmodic herb, Invigorates blood and promote qi circulation, indicated to stop pain.
Some effective acupuncture points for migraine include:
On the head: Tai Yang, GV20 (Bai Hui), Bladder 2, Small Intestine 19 Located at the temple, crown of the head, jaw (Facial Migraine) and eyebrow respectively, great for dispersing associated tension and pain locally in these areas.
On the Hand: Large Intestine 4/ Colon 4
Well-known acupoint for headaches or pain of any kind. Many clinical trials indicate its success in lowering pain threshold. Used in China in the 1960s for acupuncture anesthesia during surgery.
On the feet: Liver 3, Gall Bladder 41, Bladder 60 are all points in the foot and ankle that are indicated for treating headaches, moving stuck Liver qi and stopping pain in general.
Be sure to enquire with an AHPRA registered Acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine Practitioner when seeking this kind of relief. An AHPRA registered Doctor, Chiropractor or Physio will not have such an in depth understanding of TCM theory when it comes to Migraines nor be legally qualified to perform these treatments. As Dr. Greg Sperber, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Director of Clinical Services says “In TCM, a headache has two parts: the root and the branch. The root is whatever is causing the headache, and the branch is the pain itself. Chinese medicine works to treat both the root and the branch, so the result is more long-term, instead of just temporarily relieving the pain.”
To deal with your migraine pain, you can speak to Katika Funnell at Family Wellness Centre. Katika is an AHPRA registered Acupuncturist & Chinese Medicine Practitioner and has 12 years experience treating pain. She can answer your questions or refer you to an appropriate practitioner.