What A Migraine! (Four Types of Migraines, and How to Get Relief)

Cameron Bishop, DAOM, L.Ac Copyrighted.
As Seen in "Natural Awakening" Magazine.

Migraines! I have suffered from them life-long, and consequently.  I've researched, experimented, and studied their trend.  Any material on headaches or migraines I have filed away and discussed with my lifelong friend, who is also a fellow headache sufferer and neurologist.

Oriental medicine categorizes the syndrome by underlying constitutional pattern rather than location of the pain. Often an underlying system in the body has become weak and it leads to increase of severity, duration, and frequency. Sometimes an underlying weakness is triggered by an injury, such as a motor vehicle accident or fall.

Generally, we can group migraines roughly in these four categories:

(1) Respiratory System- Headaches from allergies, muscular skeletal.
(2) Digestive System- Headaches worse with sugar drops.
(3) Liver Blood system- Headaches worse with menstrual cycle, drug toxicity or alcohol use.
(4) Adrenal Complex- Headaches worse with lack of sleep or extreme fatigue.

Most people have several headaches ongoing by the time they come to me. They may have daily headaches, coupled with an occasional migraine. They can have sinus, stress and hormonal headache. Usually after a few Acupuncture Treatments, the daily ‘Sinus head ache' will go away first. The ‘stress headaches' then tend to alleviate and then diminish. And then the hormonal shift headaches often start to fade.

Sometimes headaches go away suddenly. But in most complex cases, when there are multiple layers of migraines, we expect the headaches to diminish in severity, frequency, and hope that they will respond to medication.

Often times they do. For example, in one of my more serious cases, a patient who had multiple migraines, found that the migraine medication started to work. This patient, upon the recommendation of their physician, switched to the NSAID medication rather than the more serious migraine medication they had been on.

In time, the severity of headaches may diminish to nothing. In my case, I went from weekly migraine to only headaches that I deserve. What I continually observe is that most headaches are worse when the patient is (a) rebounding off medication, (b) has had a lack of sleep and of course (c) has stress in their lives. With time, I have become more mindful of my breathing, reaction to stress and sleep patterns. If I made the rules on nutrition, beer and sugar would fix everything. Unfortunately, I do not make the rules and have found sugar highs, alcohol (especially beer and red wine), lack of sleep, and adrenalin rushes from stress more readily establish the headache pattern, and bring them on.

The key to headaches is to "break the pattern." ‘Breaking the pattern' means that the patient does their part by (1) regulating their sleep, (2) getting exercise, (3) reducing the amount of sugar, alcohol and dairy they consume, (4) doing what they can to alleviate their stress. This healing process can take months, especially in a chronic cases. I do my part by building my blood constitution, reducing my nervous system tension, and anticipating, and taking care of oncoming migraines.

Classic Migraine patients have similar personalities in the sense they are achievers - often over doing and driving their body to the limit, which leads literally to brain failure. As their brain "crashes," it is too late and the pain has started. By understanding your body, and how and when the symptoms arrive, you will be able to observe the onset signs of migraines.  Some that range from ‘obvious," to ‘subtle.' The obvious headache symptoms are: twinges of pain, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity and irritability. But, these symptoms often come after the headache is well on its way. More subtle signs are: forgetting words, dropping objects and vague light headiness. By being aware of the subtle signs when they can begin, you will learn to hedge off many of the headaches, and begin to better monitor diet, sleep, breathing and self care.

Few migraine patients want to admit the role of stress in their headaches. My father famously brags that his migraines went away the day he retired. I often have migraine sufferers tell me they have no stress, yet they jerk their arms tensely, dig their shoulders into their ears and raise their voice several octaves as they claim a stress free life. Living with stress is ‘normal' for them. It is only after a relaxing Acupuncture treatment they are amazed at how good they feel.

Through a combination of self help and oriental medicine most headaches can be eliminated or significantly reduced.