Although recurrent headaches and migraines are a very common problem, western medicine has little understanding of their causes. Painkillers are often the only treatment offered.

For those who suffer the misery of severe pain, nausea and sensory disturbance associated with migraines Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a clear view of why such symptoms arise and how they can be prevented. Chinese Medicine looks at the totality of a person’s health and lifestyle rather than focusing on a single symptom. While most headaches are associated imbalanced energy rising and becoming stuck in the head, this often occurs against a background of fatigue and stress, digestive problems or hormonal imbalance. The approach in Chinese Medicine is therefore firstly to address these underlying issues and then to rebalance the body’s overall energy.

The body responds to stress with a particular set of biochemical reactions called the stress response. At stressful times, the body quickly releases chemicals into the blood. This sets into motion a series of physical changes. These include a faster heart beat and breathing rate, high blood pressure and increased muscle tension. These physical changes give the body added strength, energy and alertness. They prepare the body to deal with stressful events such as giving a speech, aiding an accident victim, or fighting for fleeing from attack. For short periods there is no damage, the situation is survived and the individual can relax. However if the stress becomes chronic or out of proportion, this healthy response can become pathological. Over alertness may progress to mental strain, anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion; raised breathing rate to dysnoea or panic attacks, raised heart rate to palpitations and increased muscular tension, pain or tremor.

Some of us commonly live under a constant state of stress, continually triggering the stress response and depleting valuable reserves of energy. Those who surpass individual limits of stress suffer the consequences. Stress manifests itself in many ways. Common symptoms are headache, backache, skin disorders, gastric problems and sleeping disorders. Psychological symptoms may include depression, anxiety, poor concentration, poor memory and loss of self confidence. There is mounting evidence that chronic stress can lead to long term health problems such as hair loss, strokes, asthma, skin conditions, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome etc. Some studies indicate that as many as 60-90% of visits to ‘health care professionals’ are for stress related conditions.

The methods used In Chinese Medicine include:

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is primarily concerned with regulating the individual’s I life force, the body energy or ‘Qi’ and has a number of beneficial physiological effects. Acupuncture has a relaxation response with decreased heart rate, lowered BP, stress reduction and increased energy and tissue regeneration. It has been shown to produce a calming or tranquilizing action that is of particular interest to people in states of stress. Acupuncture can relieve feelings of anxiety and depression, which may be serious handicaps for people trying to cope with difficult domestic, social and work problems. It can give a person a feeling of well-being and self-confidence. It is an effective substitute for sleeping pill, tranquilizers, and antidepressant drugs. Acupuncture can be used in many cases not only as an alternative to these drugs but also to treat side effects and dependence. In fact a number of patients have come for acupuncture treatment specifically to come off their antidepressants. There is considerable evidence that acupuncture could substantially reduce the consumption of drugs such as Prozac.

Acupuncture can provide a safe and effective tool for stress. It will not, of course, change the circumstances of a person’s life but it will usually produce a feeling of well-being. The practitioner can help restore balance and thus protect health by identifying each individual’s unique energy profile to see where the weak spots are and where support is needed to restore balance. Acupuncture can open a window of opportunity. As the heavy feelings of stress are relieved a person feels more confidence in his ability to cope with unpleasant aspects of his life situation and make necessary changes.

Chinese Herbsare used to rebuild deficiencies in the body’s energy and correct digestive and hormonal issues.

Dietary Therapyis an essential support to acupuncture and Chinese Herbs and can on its own make a significant difference to many headaches.

Chinese Massage: can relieve much of the muscular tension which builds up in chronic headaches and effectively release trapped emotions which contribute to energy rising to the head.

Exercise: Gentle Tai Chi and Qigong exercise provides on-going support, helping us to stay relaxed and be in touch with our health.

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