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Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Treating Migraines

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) can be very helpful in the treatment of migraines. Like most ailments, the typical practitioner of Oriental medicine will take a complete health history and make an AOM diagnosis based on the patient’s signs and symptoms. While the Western medicine diagnosis may be migraine, according to AOM, twenty different patients may present with migraine pain and have 20 different diagnoses and therefore treatment plans.

For example, one of the most common patterns for migraines is something referred to as “Liver blood deficiency”. This pattern is common in women who are depleted in their stores of blood. It should be noted that terms such as “blood” and organ systems such “Liver” have their own functions and properties separate of our Western concepts. Blood can easily become depleted in women through menstruation, pregnancy, breast feeding, nourishing others but not the self, and over worrying. Because of these reasons, blood deficiency in general is more common among women than men. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary therapy and lifestyle changes can be very helpful.

Another common pattern is qi (pronounced ‘chi’) and blood stagnation. Stagnation often appears clearly in one meridian predominantly over another. A qualified practitioner will assess which meridian(s) the stagnation is located and use acupuncture points to effectively move and eliminate the stagnation. Quite often, Chinese bodywork (called tuina) may also be used along with external application of herbs.

The last most common pattern I see for migraines in my clinic is called Liver yang rising. A good example of this pattern is someone who may have hypertension along with a lot of stress. These conditions allow for qi and heat to rise toward the head, causing migraine. Treatment for this pattern is also effectively treated with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and lifestyle changes. Interestingly enough, it is likely that a patient with migraine may have more than one pattern, and they are treated accordingly.

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