Western Causes or Diagnoses of Headaches:
Let’s look at the western causes of headaches in more detail so you have a good understanding of the possibilities that exist. Basically the western causes fall under three categories.
The intra-cranial type includes inflammatory diagnoses like meningitis, or inflammation of the meninges, or membranes which envelope the central nervous system, usually affecting infants and stemming from a viral or bacterial infection; or non-inflammatory type which can be further differentiated as vascular, such as a CVA (cerebrovascular accident) or stroke, or migraine; neoplastic such as brain cancer or brain tumor; and hypertensive, as from essential hypertension, or high blood pressure, and usually manifests as pain in the vertex (top of the head) or occiput (back of the head); or secondary hypertension, including glomerulo-nephritis, or an inflammation of the glomeruli, or small blood vessels in the kidneys, which is usually chronic in nature, and manifests as high blood pressure, swelling or edema, especially the lower limbs, low back pain, fatigue, and albuminuria (protein or albumin in the urine due to poor kidney function). The cranial type includes sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses of the nose, and otitis or inflammation of the ear, common in infants. The extra-cranial type includes glaucoma, or a raised intraocular fluid pressure in the eye, manifesting as a headache around or behind the eyes, blurred vision, and seeing “halos” around illuminated objects; cervical spondylosis, or problems of the vertebrae of the neck, such as a narrowing of the space between the vertebrae (disk problems), or the formation of oesteophytes, or bone spurs, or bone growth as in stenosis, manifesting in occipital headache (back of the head) with pain and/or tenderness in the neck, shoulders, and upper back; trigeminal neuralgia, or inflammation of the trigeminal nerves in the head, manifesting as intense, sharp unilateral (one sided) pain in the forehead, eye, temple, cheek or jaw depending on which nerves are involved.
Once the serious and life threatening conditions are ruled out, the patient may be left with a diagnosis of headache from a less severe vascular, neurological, or psychological origin. This includes migraines, stress or tension headaches, and vascular headaches due to hypo or hypertension (low or high blood pressure). It may also be from a less severe, but still serious condition like a spinal problem where there is pressure on the nerves coming out of the spine, often diagnosed as “stenosis” or narrowing of the nerve canal inside the bone. These may be treated with a variety of methods in western medicine, most commonly with drugs which manage the symptoms of pain (but only make the root cause worse), or surgery, but now more commonly with more alternative therapies as well. If the headache pain is severe, and there is obvious pressure on a nerve that a surgery can alleviate, then by all means consider doing the surgery. But if the western cause is unknown, stress related, vascular in nature, psychological, environmental, hormonal, diet related, or just about anything not severe, then consider using Chinese Medicine as the treatment. It is possible to avoid using drugs and surgery in many cases, but not all. It’s nice if you at least have a western doctor who is open to other alternatives.
Some western doctors are looking to use methods other than drugs to help their patients. By utilizing methods like meditation or other stress reduction techniques, massage, reiki, cranio-sacral therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and manual therapy or physical therapy, osteopathy, and many others, one can correct the energy flow in the body and treat the root cause as well. If mastered, any one of these systems can also successfully eliminate headaches, as has been the case for many people now. The advantage of Chinese Medicine is that there are a relatively high percentage of practitioners who have enough mastery of their trade that they can successfully treat the root of people’s suffering, without doing harm. This is the primary tenet of medicine in all cultures across the world. Do no harm.
So, the next step would be to diagnose the pattern of disharmony according to Chinese Medicine. The location, severity, quality, duration, onset of the headache are all significant in this process. Other symptoms including, for example insomnia, indigestion, back pain, night sweats, bowel patterns, any other western diagnoses like diabetes or anemia all have significance and point to a pattern in Chinese Medicine. Remember, the disease is only a symptom according to Chinese Medicine. What is your pattern of disharmony?