Migraine headaches are very common to many here in Calgary. With the chinooks that occur regularly it seems as though most people are aware of what a migraine headache is, experience them themselves or at the very least know someone who does.
A migraine is a type of headache that exhibits a severe throbbing or pulsing sensation that is typically one-sided. The pain is often debilitating and can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sound or light. The pain may last anywhere from 3 hours to days. One fifth of migraine sufferers experience an aura, changes to the visual field, prior to onset of the pain.
The Mayo Clinic states, ‘Though migraine causes aren't understood, genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role. Migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Imbalances in brain chemicals — including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system — also may be involved. Researchers are still studying the role of serotonin in migraines. Serotonin levels drop during migraine attacks. This may cause your trigeminal nerve to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain's outer covering (meninges). The result is migraine pain. Other neurotransmitters play a role in the pain of migraine, including calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).” Common migraine triggers are:
Foods and drinks: cheeses and wine, food additives, caffeine, skipping meals.
Changes in sleep-wake pattern: too much or too little sleep.
Sensory stimuli: bright light, sounds, smells
Hormonal Changes: often estrogen fluctuations cause migraine, often hormone replacement therapy/birth control pills may worsen migraine headaches.
Environmental changes: change or barometric pressure or abrupt weather changes.
Understanding Migraines From the TCM Perspective
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that migraine headaches are caused by a disturbance in the Liver channel. When the Liver Blood or Yin becomes deficient the Qi in the Liver channel becomes unrestrained. The Qi should flow smoothly and evenly throughout the channel. When it becomes unrestrained the flow becomes disrupted. This unrestrained Qi rises to the top if the body and disturbs the circulation in the head. The partner meridian of the Liver, the Gallbladder, is also a commonly addressed channel in the treatment of migraines as it travels along the sides of the head including the region of the Trigeminal nerve. The practitioner will not only correct the incorrect flow of Qi in the head but also resolve the underlying cause of the imbalance that created the imbalance in the first place.
Migraine headaches can be severe and debilitating however using TCM modalities in combination with lifestyle modifications migraine headaches can be manageable.
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