Category Archives: Headaches Series, Diagnosing Headaches according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Headaches Series, Diagnosing Headaches according to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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 www.newworldmedicine.com.

The Difference Between Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine, from a Series on Headaches, Part 1

How to Get the Best Benefits from all Knowledge of Medicine.

For Example, Diagnosing Chronic Headaches, Including Migraines or Cluster Headaches, with Chinese Medicine

The Difference Between Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

 

The different methods used by Western and Chinese Medicine are due to an entirely different approach to diagnosing a person. Western Medicine treats the disease, whereas Chinese Medicine treats the person. Western Medicine is trying to diagnose a “disease”, or recognize a pattern of symptoms which are common to all people with a certain “disease”. This can be helpful, especially when the condition is severe or life-threatening. For instance, if you have a cerebro-vascular accident (CVA) or stroke, or brain tumor, the western medicine diagnosis and treatment can be very important in terms of saving your life or preventing severe, long term damage or suffering in the body. This is a great example of the power and benefit of Western Medicine: its’ ability to diagnose and treat severe conditions, like trauma or advanced stages of disease. This is why we should use Western Medicine as a diagnostic tool first, to rule out severe conditions. Furthermore, even in less severe situations, it allows us to use science and technology to our benefit. However the abuse of Western Medicine is becoming more and more evident in the over prescribing of drugs, spiraling health care costs, and unnecessary surgeries. The negative side effects of drugs and surgeries, and the recurrence of conditions after treatment also show its limitations.

Chinese Medicine differs because it is actually diagnosing the individual person. In Chinese Medicine, we consider diseases and symptoms as the same. It is looking for the true root cause of any symptoms or diseases the person may have. It is trying to identify a pattern of “disease-symptoms” unique to that individual. It is this pattern that is the true root cause of any abnormal conditions according to Chinese Medicine. By treating the “pattern” of the individual, you will resolve all the symptoms of a pattern including the main symptoms or the ‘disease’. Chinese Medicine considers the “disease”, and even the western “cause” of a disease as only a symptom of a deeper underlying “pattern” which is the true root cause of the headache.

Western Medicine treats the disease, but often does not understand the root. It is often looking for a physical cause in the body, an abnormality of the functioning of the physical anatomy, or even abnormalities at the molecular level which may cause a ‘disease’. This is, in my opinion, a major flaw or drawback of Western Medicine. It does not recognize that there can be ‘energetic’ imbalances which come before physical changes. You can treat a pattern before it evolves into physical harm. This is why Chinese Medicine can succeed so well in prevention of disease. In most cases beyond severe conditions, where there is obvious physical change in the body, Western Medicine does not understand the root cause of illness or disharmony. Often we hear this from our western doctors: “the headache is from stress”, or “we don’t know the exact cause”, or “it is caused from pressure on the nerve”. Well, what is causing that, you may ask? If a headache is from a broken blood vessel in the head from an injury, then one could say that Western Medicine is seeing the root or cause of the headache and treating it appropriately. With this I would agree. In an emergency situation, Western Medicine shines. In the case where the headache is from something other than a severe, life threatening condition, a trauma, or an advanced disease, often times Western Medicine begins to fail at treatment since it does not understand these “patterns” of Chinese Medicine. One could argue that this is a philosophical debate, but the bottom line is this: Which form of medicine benefits you the most?

I believe both systems have advantages and disadvantages, and you must learn WHEN to apply each system, or how to skillfully combine them. This is the NEW MEDICINE which is taking over the world! What is being practiced in most of China today is a combination of modern Western Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It includes modern diagnostic tools like ultrasound and MRI’s, surgical techniques, and pharmaceutical drugs from Western Medicine with the herbal medicine, acupuncture, and ancient diagnostic techniques from Traditional Chinese Medicine. The Chinese have the best of both worlds! There is much less abuse and over prescription of drugs and over use of expensive diagnostic techniques or unnecessary surgeries. This is mainly due to economic and social values. In America, for instance, most people have insurance which will pay for expensive diagnostics and drugs. What follows is a huge abuse of the medical system. In my opinion, Western medicine is best at triage, or emergency medicine. First of all, it can diagnose things like deep seated brain tumor with an MRI, for instance, in the early stages which Chinese medicine usually cannot. Secondly, it can do surgery to remove the tumor, for example, or repair the body from trauma or injury. Surgery was also done by the Chinese a long time ago, and there were famous surgeons from 500 years ago and more, but the modern procedures together with the equipment and technology is incomparable. Thirdly, it can apply drugs with very specific life saving effects on the body. One could argue that the Chinese were also doing this a long time ago in some form or another. But the advent of modern pharmaceuticals has made huge advances and there are very specific drugs which can work better than herbs like antibiotics and antivirals, and if used appropriately, it little side effects. In cases where conditions persist, the side effects of drugs are often worse than the condition itself.

An example would be a headache caused from high blood pressure, or another diagnosis could be “headache of a vascular nature”. In Western Medicine, the improper blood flow, or high pressure of the blood, would be considered the cause of the headache. In Chinese Medicine we would see this blood imbalance as just another symptom of a deeper underlying “pattern” called, for example, “Liver Yang Rising From Liver Yin Deficiency”. In Chinese Medicine, this “pattern” would be the root cause of the headache, and there for sure would be other symptoms like outbursts of anger, insomnia (inability to sleep), and constipation, for instance. If you treat this pattern correctly with Chinese Medicine, not only do you resolve the headache or “disease”, but the whole set of symptoms associated with the “pattern”. If you treat the headache with Western Medicine like painkillers or muscle relaxants, it may eliminate the headache quickly, but it will often make the other symptoms worse, especially over a longer period of time. And most likely, the headache will be back! If one stops the drugs abruptly, the headache can come on even stronger. If one continues to only mask the symptoms with drugs, for sure other symptoms of a more severe nature will arise. These are the side effects of drugs. The side effects of Chinese Medicine are a gradual lessening of all the symptoms in a pattern, including the headache. Drugs tend to loose their effectiveness over time, but may work really well at relieving symptoms. Which medicine do you think is more helpful in each case? Which one do you think actually works in the long term? Which one works better in a severe short term situation? What are the consequences? If you only treat the headache with drugs for years and years, you are for sure on a downward spiral of your health, and you more than likely still have the headaches and other worsening symptoms. The purpose of this work is to explain the best uses of both systems, and give in detail other options of which you may not be aware.