Migraine is a common and very painful condition which can severely impact a person's quality of life. It can affect women more due to hormonal changes (adolescence, pregnancy or menopause). Migraine is typically on one side of the head, but it can also be bilateral or at the back of the head. Pain can be sharp with intermittent spasms or constant and throbbing. Sometimes migraine can be accompanied by discomfort behind the eyes, around the temple area, and even radiate to the neck and shoulder. Often there is light and noise sensitivity, nausea, vomiting or aggravation of pain with body movements that lasts for a couple of hours. Usually patients rely heavily on painkillers, muscle relaxant or even sedative drugs to manage pain.
Meridians are channels connecting internal pathological changes to external pain
The medical name for migraine in Chinese Medicine is Pian Tou Feng and is mostly related to the Shaoyang and Jueyin channels. Since these two channels are also a pair (externally-internally related), migraine is considered a pathological change in the Liver meridian (internally).
Shaoyang: Gallbladder and Sanjiao meridians
Jueyin: Liver and Pericardium meridians
Liver meridian is believed to be closely related to emotional changes in a person, such is the reason why migraines can be triggered by emotional stress. The body clock make sure every meridian takes its turn doing its rounds, so the Liver meridian takes charge at 1 to 3AM. Patients suffering from migraines may also have trouble sleeping, irritability and easily overwhelmed by emotions. Therefore acupuncture treatment for migraine will begin by addressing the Shaoyang and Jueyin channels.
Here are some descriptions of the Shaoyang and Jueyin channels from The Medical Classics of the Yellow Emperor, which can also help you better understand migraine symptoms with Chinese Medicine theory:
1. Gallbladder meridian (see image 1.1) starts from the outer corner of the eye - pain and redness on the outer corner of eye and temple area with migraine.
2. Both Shaoyang meridians trace along the back of ear, enters into the ear then out to the front of the ear - noise sensitivity, ringing in the ear or reduced hearing with migraine pain (see image 1.1 and 1.2).
3. Liver meridian opens up to the eyes - pathological changes to the liver meridian will cause light sensitivity and blurry vision.
4. Liver meridian closely trace along the side of the stomach before going through the gallbladder and liver organs - pathological changes to the liver meridian can also present with digestive symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and reduced appetite.
5. The Pericardium meridian starts from the centre of chest, exiting from the pericardium, descends downwards through the diaphragm, passing through all Sanjiao areas (to put it simply the trunk area) - migraine with irregular heart beat (palpitations), chest pain or tightness, nausea, vomiting.
Acupuncture can quickly and effectively reduce migraine pain, especially when patients come into the clinic when the migraine has just started. The effect of acupuncture can continue to prevent the migraine from worsening in the next couple of hours.
Migraine treatment with Herbal Medicine can help to lower pain medication dosage
Whilst acupuncture can control pain quickly, herbal medicine can assist with internal conditions and consolidate the effect of acupuncture pain relief. For example, migraine associated with menopause can use herbal medicine to rebalance hormone changes to prevent migraines from reoccurring in the long-term. For people suffering from migraines, you can seek the treatment of professional Chinese Medicine practitioners to treat the cause of pain, avoid excessive dependence on painkillers and improve your quality of life.