TCM treatments for headaches and migraines

Headaches and migraines: freedom from pain with TCM


Traditional Chinese Medicine traces headaches and migraines back to disturbances in the flow of the life energy Qi. To correct these, we use TCM treatments such as acupuncture and herbal therapies. Accurate diagnosis is important, as there are a large number of different types of headaches and causes.

Headaches are among the most common complaints. However, the term is an imprecise one; we have to distinguish between primary and secondary headaches. Around 90 percent of headaches fall within the former category. In most of these cases, Western medicine is unable to agree on the cause. Secondary headaches arise as the consequence of an illness or injury.

Primary headaches can be divided into three groups: there are unpredictable tension headaches which appear as if from nowhere and disappear again after a short time; another manifestation is the migraine attack, with its intense hammering pain, which is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting; the third category includes cluster headaches – these occur with a violent intensity and are followed by long periods without pain.

Numerous triggers, often difficult to identify

Headaches have a negative effect on the patient’s quality of life and performance at work. Chronic headaches lead to permanent tiredness and in the worst cases can culminate in depression. Primary headaches can be triggered by a variety of factors which are often difficult to identify. These include mental aspects such as stress, tension or overwork, but also external influences such as changes in the weather, the hot foehn or cold bise winds. And, depending on the constitution of the individual, the negative effects of certain foods and alcoholic drinks should not be underestimated either.

Conventional medicine regards these pain-triggering factors as causes. However, in Traditional Chinese Medicine the majority are seen as the symptoms of a deeper, underlying health problem. The actual cause of headaches, according to TCM, is a disturbance in the flow of Qi life energy. TCM treatments therefore work to correct this clearly defined area of weakness, rather than targeting the barely tangible triggers.

Unblocking the Qi flow

Qi circulates in various energy channels, or meridians. These, in turn, are connected to certain organs to form a functional circle. According to the teachings of TCM, headaches are often related to the meridian that supplies Qi life energy to the functional circle of the liver. TCM treatments for headaches aim to disperse the blockages disrupting the Qi flow in this meridian. The TCM diagnosis clarifies which forms of treatment are appropriate. Acupuncture and herbal therapies have proved to be particularly effective. Depending on the constitution of the individual, moxibustion and cupping may also be considered.

The TCM diagnosis further shows whether the body should be provided with warmth, or whether heat needs to be dispersed. Many headache patients have taken medication over a lengthy period of time. This is another factor the TCM diagnosis needs to take into account. With TCM there is a good chance that medicine-based treatments can be discontinued over time and complete relief from pain achieved through natural means.

The TCM diagnosis as the key to successful treatment

TCM can achieve good results both with acute and chronic headaches and in preventing migraine attacks. A key element in this is the TCM diagnosis, which must take into account the varied and sometimes unclear ways that headaches can manifest themselves. With their many years of experience, the therapists at TCM Chan are well qualified to identify the factors causing pain. These then form the basis for a treatment plan which is specially aligned to suit the physical and mental constitution of the patient.

The duration of the treatment depends on the constitution of the individual, the intensity of the pain and how long the patient has been suffering. There is a rule of thumb that says the more pronounced the symptoms and the more chronic the pain, the greater the number of treatments required. However, experience shows us that patients can expect to feel a significant improvement after only 10 to 12 sessions.

For questions and appointments:
Phone: 043 488 60 55

Tips for prevention and relief of headaches

  • Identify and avoid the causes of pain
    Keep a headache diary to record the possible pain triggers. Once you know what they are, you can avoid them and prevent some attacks of pain.
  • Avoid stress and make time to relax
    Do relaxation exercises such as qigong, tai chi, yoga, autogenic training and muscle relaxation. In situations of stress take deep controlled breaths for five minutes, inhaling through your nose and breathing out slowly through your mouth.
  • Unblock and strengthen the functional circle of your liver with suitable foods
    These include bitter and tart foods such as sauerkraut, citrus fruits and apples. Other foods with a beneficial effect include greens (spinach, chard, cabbage), bitter salads (radicchio, rocket), grapefruit, olives, aubergines, artichokes and dark chocolate.
  • Choose cooling foods if diagnosed with inner heat
    If the TCM diagnosis identifies intense heat, cooling foods such as gherkins, tomatoes, melon, green tea and mint can help. Eat meals which have been steamed and avoid fried and deep-fried foods.
  • Adapt your eating and drinking habits
    Avoid excessive alcohol consumption and foods containing preservatives, artificial colourings (“E numbers”), flavourings or sweeteners. Meals prepared in the microwave and deep-frozen foods are also unsuitable.

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