The Causes and Symptoms of Migraine or Cluster Headaches In Chinese and Western Medicine.

The Causes and Symptoms of Migraine or Cluster Headaches In Chinese and Western Medicine.

Cluster headaches and migraines are often considered VASCULAR in medical terminology because the apparent cause of the headache is from the “improper function of blood vessels”. And what is the CAUSE of the blood vessel dysfunction? In Chinese Medicine, it is the disharmony of the internal organs and their functions which control the blood flow.

The reason why many alternative therapies (acupuncture, laser therapy, hot./cold applications, chiropractic adjustments and manipulation, osteopathic manipulations, meditation/relaxation techniques) are successful is because when they are done properly they DO regulate the blood flow and reduce the experience of pain.

So does this constitute a successful treatment if the headache is gone? If it doesn’t recur regularly than it is successful. But the reality is, the headache often recurs because the TRUE UNDERLYING CAUSE (the disharmony of internal organs) has not changed. The SYMPTOM is the headache, or the vascular dysfunction, and the CAUSE is the internal disharmony of organs.

In Chinese Medicine we treat the SYMPTOMS or BRANCHES (which in western medicine would include vascular dysfunction, muscular tension, neurological conditions, etc.) by for instance moving the blood flow AND we treat the TRUE CAUSE or ROOT of the headache (unless it is from severe trauma, tumor, severe vascular accidents like stroke, etc.) by balancing the disharmony of the internal organs.

Thus, by applying the principles of Chinese Medicine, you will learn methods for managing both the headache AND the process of treating its TRUE underlying organic causes (improving the functions of the liver and kidney, for example) and thereby reducing or eliminating the recurrence of a headache.

Western medicine should always be used for its diagnostic abilities to detect severe medical situations which would benefit from its applications. In cases of headaches from trauma or injury, tumors, severe vascular conditions, meningitis or other infections of the head, etc. where life is threatened, western medicine can detect the problem (still not necessarily the cause in Chinese Medicine) and treat it to save your life. In these situations, Western medicine is the clear choice as far as treatment.

By utilizing only Chinese Medicine, you would short change yourself of the available tools of Western medicine. By learning when and how to properly apply Western and Chinese Medicine treatment and principles, alone or in combination, one is tapping into the best of both worlds of EAST MEETS WEST. This is the NEW MEDICINE.

In cases where severe or dangerous medical conditions have been eliminated by proper western medical diagnosis, the patient is often left with a diagnosis of “migraine headache”, “cluster headache”, “tension headache”, “stress headache”, or headache of a structural nature, like misalignment of the spine, especially the cervical vertebrae. In the worst case scenario, the diagnosis may be “headache of an idiopathic nature” arising from a spontaneous, unknown or obscure cause. It is interesting to note that according to the Wikipedia entry on “idiopathic”:

As medical and scientific advances are made with relation to a particular condition or disease, more root causes are discovered, and the percentage of cases designated as idiopathic shrinks.
In his book The Human Body, Isaac Asimov noted a comment about the term idiopathic made in the 20th edition of Stedman’s Medical Dictionary: “A high-flown term to conceal ignorance”.

Similarly, in the American television show House, the title character, Dr. Gregory House, remarks that the word “comes from the Latin, meaning ‘we’re idiots, because we don’t know what’s causing it'”.
Interestingly enough, in Chinese medicine there are no conditions which are considered idiopathic. There is always a diagnosable imbalance of the internal organs and their associated systems which is the cause of any condition or disease.

By associating various seemingly unrelated symptoms, and utilizing the “low tech” diagnostic methods of Chinese medicine, including examination of the toungue and palpation of the pulse, a Chinese medicine practitioner can not only understand and treat the headache, but often PREVENT the condition from progressing into a more severe and life threatening stage.

The clear role of PREVENTION in Chinese Medicine is due to it’s ability to understand and correct the underlying cause of disease before it manifests in the physical form. For instance, the headache can be caused from a condition known in Chinese medicine as “Hyperactivity of Liver Yang due to Insufficiency of Kidney and Liver Yin”. It is commonly associated with certain syptoms like dizziness, headache in the temples, ringing in the ears or tinnitus, nausea, backache, high blood pressure or hypertension, restlessness or irritability, insomnia, redness of the tongue proper, and a rapid pulse.

If these conditions persist for a long time or are only treated by using analgesic medicines to mask the pain, or medications used to lower blood pressure, then the underlying cause according to Chinese Medicine is going untreated and most likely getting worse. Extreme cases of longstanding “Hyperactivity of Liver Yang” commonly lead to conditions such as cerebrovascular accident (CVA), also known as a stroke.

Strokes can be of an ischemic nature, due to a lack of blood flow to a certain area of the brain, or they can be hemmorhagic in nature, which means that a blood vessel is ruptured. The Western Medicine causes are varying and complex, but aside from head trauma and other rare causes, the majority of strokes can be prevented by early diagnosis of this pattern of “Hyperactivity of Liver Yang” and treatment of this underlying cause.

The treatment would include stimulating acupuncture points and ingesting herbal formulas which “sedate the Liver Yang and nourish the Insufficiency of Kidney and Liver Yin. Examples would include the acupoints Liver 2, Kidney 3, and Urinary Bladder 23, and formulas such as “Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin” which includes herbs such as Gastrodia elata, or “Tian Ma”.

Huge amounts of money will be saved and many strokes prevented as these principles and treatments of Chinese medicine are applied. There is fastly growing interest in the western world and huge application presently in the Asian communities of Chinese Medicine treating and preventing conditions such as headache and stroke. There is also a growing body of evidence and support for the mechanisms and scientific reasons why it works. Just surf the web and you will see it.

The purpose of this article is to enlighten people to the possibilities of treatment for headaches and other conditions as well. By using a combination of Western and Chinese medicine and knowing the advantages and limitaions of both systems and when to apply them, one has a complete system of medicine. It can be referred to as the “new medicine”, the combining of the wisdom of ancient systems with the tools of modern science.

The principles of Chinese Medicine can be applied for self help in a variety of ways including the stimulation of acupuncture points with laser, electricity, moxibustion, herbal applications, and other means, as well as through the self administration of certain “dietary supplements” which may include traditional and modern herbal formulations and “nutraceuticals”. Ideally one has a working relationship with a practitioner of Chinese Medicine and a good Western doctor open to working with alternative therapies. But in certain situations when these relationships haven’t developed yet, information and self therapy can make a vast difference in one’s well being.

Please leave comments on this blog, especially stories of how Chinese Medicine and acupuncture have helped you in your quest for well being. For more information on learning about how Chinese Medicine can help you please visit

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