Saturday, August 29, 2009

Migraines and Chinese Medicine: Study Supports the Efficacy of Acupuncture Treatments

By Eric Aufdencamp, L.Ac.

The results of a study published in March 2008 in Headache Journal, conducted at the University of Padua in Italy, confirmed that acupuncture significantly reduces migraines and works better than drugs alone. Chinese medicine is extremely effective at treating the root causes of migraine headaches. All disorders in Chinese medicine require differentiating the cause of the disharmony. In other words, for every disorder, there can be multiple causes. Treating illness in this way allows us to treat individuals according to their unique pattern and constitution. Evaluation tools such as tongue and pulse diagnosis allow us to individualize our treatment plan.

Diagnosis can include using symptoms associated with each meridian, and from this information create an acupuncture point prescription. For example, in Chinese medicine, pain that is one-sided or goes from side to side is often related to the Gallbladder meridian. The Gallbladder meridian is paired with the Liver meridian. Together they form a yin-yang pair; what affects one, will affect the other. Pain around the eye, near the temples or top of the head relates to the influence of the Liver pathway. Each pathway has a part of the body it 'opens to', and the eyes 'open to' the Liver. This association explains the light sensitivity or visual auras that often precede migraines.

The Liver and Gallbladder meridians can become 'stagnant', or congested due to many different factors. Emotions can be a major contributor. Specifically, anger, frustration, irritability, and resentment can cause a disruption in the meridian causing pain or discomfort. Nausea and vomiting associated with migraines is due to the Liver meridian adversely affecting the Stomach Qi.

There are many combinations of patterns that can be present. The goal of the practitioner is to determine the main ones and treat accordingly, as well as provide diet and lifestyle guidelines for homecare.


Below are just a few self-care guidelines for the treatment of headaches. If your migraines continue after instituting these changes, please call our office for a consultation.

Migraine Relief Prescription:

1. Walk slowly and mindfully outside every day. Walking is the movement that best helps circulate Qi throughout the Liver and Gallbladder meridians.

2. Gradually reduce and eliminate coffee consumption. In Chinese dietary theory, coffee is hot and drying and aggravates the Liver. Coffee can symptomatically relieve migraines for some, as it moves the stagnation, but daily use is detrimental.

3. Use lavender essential oils topically on the temples. It helps to calm the mind and is beneficial to Liver qi congestion.

4. Perform self-massage techniques:

LI 4: Between the thumb and index finger in the webbing, press towards the bone of the index finger.

LV 3: Press between the big toe and second toe about two fingers away from the webbing towards the ankle.