How Chinese Medicine Addresses Headaches

Western medicine designates types of headaches such as cluster headaches, tension headaches, or migraines to a set of symptoms; in Chinese medicine, diagnosis of headaches depends on a set of patterns. Chinese herbs can alleviate headaches and migraines by addressing the root imbalances leading to them. The strategies listed are not quick fixes for headaches and migraines; the herbs listed address the root organ system imbalances related to headaches and must be taken consistently for many months to preclude headaches from developing in the first place. Here are some of the more common patterns of imbalance related to headaches according to Chinese medical theory:

Liver Qi Stagnation Headache
Herbs for Liver Health

In most cases, Liver imbalances are at the root of Headaches. The most common Liver disharmony is Liver Qi Stagnation. As in nature, heat in the body rises. In the case of Liver Heat, the Heat can rise through the meridians (or channels) and Liver heat often rises through the Gall Bladder channel. The Liver and Gall Bladder channels are connected and the Gall Bladder channel traverses the occipital area of the skull (the base of the skull), the head itself, and ends at the temples. Often these headaches present as one sided headaches. The Liver is pacified with the free and easy movement of Qi and Blood circulating throughout. 

Liver-Fire Headache
If Liver Qi Stagnation is not addressed and eliminated, the Liver energy will continue to heat up and headaches will become more severe. Often these headaches are related to extreme stress and frustration, angry outbursts, red face, sharp pain, dizziness, or nausea. This type of headache may get worse when you lie down. 

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Blood Deficient Headache
The Liver is most happy when it has abundant Liver Blood flowing through it keeping it nourished and cool. These types of headaches may be chronic and dull in nature with an empty headed feeling; fatigue with pain relief with rest; paleness and worsening of headache with exertion. Blood is Yin in nature and requires nourishing tonic herbs to rebuild abundant blood according to Chinese medicine.

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Blood Stagnation Headache
Blood formation and Blood movement require an abundance of Blood; if Blood Deficiency persists, Blood Stagnation can develop. Blood Stagnation can also be due to trauma, circulatory impingement, or Qi Deficiency. This type of headache will likely present with sharp, stabbing, ongoing fixed pain. 

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Qi Deficient Headache
Headaches that are associated with overwork and exhaustion may be due to Spleen Qi Deficiency. These headaches are dull throughout the whole head or frontal area, and are relieved with rest. 

Internal Damp-Phlegm Headache
If Spleen Qi Deficiency persists, Internal Dampness can develop. This type of headache would present with a feeling of heaviness of the head and a dull persistent pain exacerbated by wet weather. 

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Kidney Deficiency Headache
This type of headache would be dull, likely at the crown of the head or radiate from the back of the head to the front, and would be alleviated with rest.

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Acupressure Points for Headaches and Migraines
Liver Qi Stagnation and Liver Blood Deficiency
Acupressure Point Selection:
Liver 3
Large Intestine 4
Gallbladder 41
Tai Yang (between eyebrows)
Deficient Liver Blood
Acupressure point selection:
Liver 3
Spleen 6
Stomach 36
Triple Burner 6
Yin Tang (between eyebrows)

Liver Qi Stagnation and Kidney Deficiency w/ Spleen Deficiency
Acupressure Point Selection:
Liver 3
Kidney 3
Spleen 6
Lung 9
Acupressure Directions
Tonify Acupressure Point LU 9 (Taiyuan or Great Abyss) to Reinforce the Lung Energy:
Lung 9 is located at the radial end of the transverse crease of the wrist on the lateral side of the radial artery.
Tonify Acupressure point KI 3 (Taixi or Great Stream) to strengthen the Kidney energy:
Kidney 3 is located in the depression between the medial malleolus and the tendo calcaneus, level with the tip of the medial malleolus.
Tonify Acupressure Point Sp 6 (Sanyinjiao or Three Yin Meetings) to strengthen the Spleen and Kidney Energy:
Spleen 6 is located 3 cun above the tip of the medial malleolus on the posterior border of the medial aspect of the tibia.
Apply Even Pressure to Acupressure Point LI 4 (Hegu or Union Valley):
Large Intestine 4 is located on the dorsum of the hand between the first and second metacarpal bones in the middle of the second metacarpal bone on the radial side.
Release Acupressure Point LV 3 (Taichong or Great Surge) to Resolve Liver Qi Stagnation:
Liver 3 is located on the dorsum of the foot, in the depression just distal to the junction of the first and second metatarsal bones.
Tonify Acupressure Point ST 36 (Zusanli or Leg Three Li) to Tonify Qi and Expel Wind
Stomach 36 is located 3 cun below the knee cap 1 cun from the anterior crest of the tibula.
Release Acupressure Point GB 41 (Zulinfqi or Foot Overlooking Tears) to Pull Down Ascending Liver Heat
Gallbladder 41 is located in the depression distal to the junction of the fourth and fifth metatarsal bones, on the lateral side of the tendon.