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Understanding migraine headaches and the benefits of Oriental medicine

Most people have experienced a headache at sometime in their lives. Headaches can vary in level of pain and origin of cause.

Migraine headaches are usually severe pain at one or both sides of the head and most of the time debilitating. They can also have symptoms such as visual disturbances and/or nausea and vomiting.

Women usually get migraines three times more often than men and there is a family history of migraines in more than 50 percent of the cases.

Certain factors can trigger or cause a migraine in some people.

Foods which may cause a migraine are alcohol, especially red wine; foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG); foods that contain tyramine, such as aged cheeses; preserved meats with nitrites; spicy foods; and sweet foods.

Other factors include too much or too little sleep; fluctuations in female hormones; emotions such as anxiety, worry and fear; excessive mental overwork; stress; and environmental factors such as weather or temperature changes, wind, fluorescent or bright lights, computer screens, strong odors and high altitude.

Migraines that start in childhood usually are due to a weak constitution (basic health).

In Oriental medicine, the type of pain and specific location of the pain is important in differentiating the cause of the headache.

For example, if the pain is dull across the forehead it is usually due to a deficient stomach problem. If the pain is sharp at the top of the head it is usually due to liver energy going upward.

These are a couple of examples of how we diagnose in Oriental medicine.

There are several different diagnoses of migraine headaches.

When treating patients with Oriental medicine, it is important to treat the whole person, not just a symptom. It is important to change the cause of the headaches, not just temporarily remove the pain.

Treatment of migraines involves several different areas.

The first area is stress reduction through biofeedback, Tai Qi, Qi Gong, yoga or meditation, which creates a more relaxed state of mind, body and spirit.

The next area is exercising, such as swimming or vigorous walking, on a regular basis. Stagnation (lack of movement) of a person’s qi (energy) is a big factor in migraines.

Another area is dietary changes, such as eliminating certain foods from the diet, which will help remove the body’s triggers for migraines.

Acupuncture and herbs can change how the body’s energy responds to stimuli such as food and environmental sensitivities, can reduce stress and can balance hormones and other factors that are the triggers for migraines.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to Randall Wegener, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., MSTOM, at (760) 451-2188.


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