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Headache - Health Advice

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What are headaches?

Simply defined, a headache is a pain in the head due to some cause. Headaches may result from any number of factors, including tension; muscle contraction; vascular problems; withdrawal from certain medications; abscesses; or injury.


Headaches fall into three main categories: tension-type, migraine and cervicogenic. Tension-type headaches are the most frequent. Patients who endure tension-type headaches usually feel mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head. The pain is usually described as tight, stiff or constricting, as if something is being wrapped around your head and squeezed tightly.


Cervicogenic headaches are the most recently diagnosed type of headache and are musculoskeletal in nature. They may be caused by pain in the neck or spine that is transferred to the head. Many times, cervicogenic headaches go undiagnosed because of their recent classification.

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Who suffers from headaches?

Nearly everyone will suffer a headache at some point in time. They are one of the most common physical complaints that prompt people to treat themselves or seek professional assistance. Some estimates say that up to 50 million Americans suffer from sever, long-lasting, recurring headaches. While most headaches are not necessarily symptomatic of another condition, they can be very distracting and account for significant amounts of time lost from work.

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What can acupuncture do for headaches?

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a very consistent and philosophically based framework for headache etiology, physiology, diagnosis and treatment strategy. Acupuncture, as an effective treatment modality, has been applied to headaches from the earliest beginnings of TCM.


Acupuncture is not only effective for migraine headaches, but also works very well with tension headaches, cluster headaches, post-traumatic headaches, and disease-related headaches that might be due to sinus problems, high blood pressure or sleeping disorders. The greatest advantage of acupuncture over Western medicine is that it does virtually no harm. Some medications can have serious side effects and can (in some instances) actually lead to patients experiencing a "rebound" headache. Unlike synthetic drugs, acupuncture has virtually no side effects, and the procedures for treating headaches are much less invasive with acupuncture than with surgery.


Common headache pain is caused by vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). Because this is not well understood, even by pharmacists and doctors it seems, common medications prescribed for headaches (e.g. beta blockers which dilate blood vessels) can make migraines worse.


Migraine can be life threatening, preceding strokes, aneurysms, permanent visual loss, severe dental problems, epileptic seizures, coma and even death. It also greatly impacts job productivity, personal and social relationships.

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What kinds of headaches are there?

More than 90 percent of headaches can be classified as Tension-type, Migraine, Cervicogenic or Cluster.


The most common are the frequent, Tension-type headaches. People typically suffer mild to moderate pain, on both sides of the head that is often described as tight, stiff, constricting – like having something wrapped around your head and pressing tightly.


Migraines are periodic, severe, throbbing headaches that afflict far fewer people than tension-type headaches, and are usually more frequent in women than men. These types of headaches usually hurt on one side of the head, can cause loss of appetite, nausea and even vomiting, and may involve temporary visual changes.


Cervicogenic headache is a musculoskeletal form of tension-type headache (which may also be related to migraines). Often, cervicogenic headaches go undiagnosed, and this is at least in part, due to the relative newness of this classification.


Cluster headaches occur most often in men, and are characterized by excruciating pain in an eye or a temple, and last from 15 minutes to an hour or more. They occur in waves lasting weeks to months, and occurring once or twice a year.

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What should I be concerned about?

If you are a headache sufferer, your obvious concern is to obtain safe, dependable relief. You should avoid making things worse by using drugs – even over-the-counter, nonprescription drugs – that can have serious side effects and dangerous interactions with other medications or supplements that you might be taking. You should also be aware that many people experience what are termed "analgesic rebound headaches" from taking painkillers every day, or nearly every day. The medicine you take to get rid of today's headache may give you a headache tomorrow and the days after, due to the gradual build-up of some of the compounds found in todays' headache relief tablets.

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How does a headache happen?

When a headache hits, it can be triggered by a number of factors. These triggers act on people with a genetic disposition toward irregular serotonin control. It is thought that a trigger causes a wave of electrical activity to spread through the brain. The serotonin level then surges in a kind of a wave action. A result is that decreases in serotonin can cause blood vessels to become irritated, and maybe the trigeminal nerve (a major nerve in the brain/face) as well. The result is... a headache and associated pain.


Many sufferers of chronic headaches increase their susceptibility by over-medicating, which can lead to rebound headaches. Rebound headaches are more frequent headaches which are the result of too much pain relief medication; where "too much" can be the amount of caffeine contained in three or four cups of coffee per day, or in more than twice-weekly doses of pain relievers or decongestants; or even two aspirins a day and some caffeine. 


It is important to use medications sparingly by tolerating as much pain as you can. A person may find that something like Aleve, Advil, aspirin, or Tylenol may effectively reduce headache pain, which can lead to more frequent use, which may then cause more frequent headaches. And, for whatever reason, the medication of choice tends to become less effective, causing one to increase the frequency of its use in  a kind of an endless circle. 

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What can I do about my headaches?

  • Try a relaxation technique, like deep breathing, or Yoga.
  • Drink things without caffeine in them:  soft drinks, water, etc.
  • Try aspirin, ibuprofen (like Advil, for instance), or acetaminophen - but not more than twice a week (to avoid the rebound).
  • Use ice packs. Ice can be very effective at the point of pain.
  • Try to rest or sleep in a dark, quiet room.
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What about exercise and headaches?

Exercise - aerobic exercise, done for thirty minutes, five times a week, may help prevent headaches. It is probable that  the endorphins released during exercise tend to promote a sense of well-being.

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How can I stop my migraine?

It should be emphasized that emotions - stress, worry, depression, etc. can also act as triggers to headaches and migraines. It is therefore essential to maintain good emotional balance, even if that means some form of psychotherapy. Foods are often mentioned as significant triggers, but their importance is much less relevant in the face of stress and biochemical imbalances.


If all else has failed, you may decide to turn to preventive medication with a physician's assistance (see below). You may choose to follow this path if:

  • You get moderate to severe migraines more than three times per month
  • Migraine relief has so far failed
  • The frequency/intensity of your migraines is adversely affecting your quality of life

The following medications probably won't eliminate your migraines, but could improve the quality of your life:

  • Antidepressants 
  • Beta Blockers 
  • NSAIDs 
  • Calcium Blockers 

If you still do not find relief, a doctor might prescribe combinations of previously identified medications.

As a last resort, there is a group of drugs called "MAO inhibitors" (like Nardil). These drugs are helpful for both migraines and simple daily headaches. While these drugs can be very helpful, along with the drugs comes a long list of foods and other drugs to avoid when taking them. Your doctor will advise.

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Recommended Reading and Products for Headaches

Migraines and Headaches and the Foods You Eat

Migraines and Headaches and the Foods You Eat

Offers a revolutionary way to manage & prevent migraine & other headaches through diet.Youll learn which foods can trigger headaches,how to determine which ones affect you,& how to prepare meals to reduce chances of getting a migraine.(1997) 258pp


View more info >
Migraine: Take Control of Your Health Naturally

Migraine: Take Control of Your Health Naturally

This practical self-help handbook reveals myriad ways to relieve migraines. It follows a hoslistic health programme of simple but highly effective methods that not only bring about relief from migraine,but also promote general well-being. At present, orthodox medicine offers no cure for migraine. So increasing numbers of people are looking for a less sympton-driven and more holistic approach treatment. The techniques in this book are proven to have been enormous help to sufferers, and in some cases, even provide complete freedom from migraine attacks. The programme consists of Diet, Kinesiology allergy testing, Compresses, Aromatic oils, Chinese meridian massage, Breathing exercises, Taoist yoga streches, Stress management, Colour healing.(2005)128pp


View more info >
Magnesium Solution for Migraine Headaches: How to use Magnesium

Magnesium Solution for Migraine Headaches: How to use Magnesium

This book presents the facts about magnesium and other naturalremedies for the prevention and treatment of migraines and cluster headaches. Here is valuable information for anyone seekinga safe, non drug option. (2004) 78pp


View more info >
Acupuncture for Headache: DVD

Acupuncture for Headache: DVD

This DVD focuses on treatment of common headaches with acupuncture therapy based on pattern identification. Mastery of the techniques seen in this DVD will allow practitioners to improve their ability to effectively treat headaches. (2007) DVD 34mins


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Help from Chinese Medicine: Migraines

Help from Chinese Medicine: Migraines

For patients with migraines, Chinese medicie can provide extraordinary results. Not only can it improve symptoms, but it may help to reduce or even eliminate the need for phamaceuticals. A better way of looking after your health. (2008) 157pp


View more info >
Curing Headaches Naturally with Chinese Medicine

Curing Headaches Naturally with Chinese Medicine

The reader will learn a host of holistic and natural methods for preventing & treating all kind of headaches.Treatments include Chinese herbal medicine,acupuncture,Chinese aromatherapy,Magnet therapy,Chinese dietary therapy,& exercise.B.Flaws(1998)180p


View more info >
Migraine: Using Acupuncture, Moxibustion & Tuina

Migraine: Using Acupuncture, Moxibustion & Tuina

This clear and comprehensive guide equips practioners with theskills to carry out treatment that will significantly ease systoms and pain.A range of typical cases are discussed and effective treatments described.DVD demonstrates treatments. (2011)


View more info >
Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Headache

Acupuncture and Moxibustion for Headache

This book is rich in content, but short and concise in description. It highlights the key points and is useful in practice. It can be used as a reference book by physicians and also peoplewho want to treat themselves at home. (2010) 89pp


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Chinalife Remedies

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint Essential Oil

This oil is beneficial for indigestion, colic, nausea, fainting, flu, fever, congestion, acne, headaches and shock.


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Rosemary Essential Oil

Rosemary Essential Oil

Stimulates the brain & aids memory loss, headache, hair loss, muscular tension, rheumatism, arthritis, burns, colds, catarrh and asthma.


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Sage Essential Oil

Sage Essential Oil

This antiseptic oil can be used to treat ulcers, wounds, mouth and throat infections, headaches, hair loss, irregular periods, menopausal symptoms and muscular tension.


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Marjoram Essential Oil

Marjoram Essential Oil

This oil is useful for insomnia, headaches, colds, asthma, bronchitis, muscular tension, menstrual cramps, rheumatism, high blood pressure and constipation.


View more info >
Lemongrass Essential Oil

Lemongrass Essential Oil

Refreshing, cooling, uplifting. Traditionally used to help ease headaches, and mood swings. Mixes well with many other oils, such as rosemeray, lavender, tea tree and other citrus oils.


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Clove Essential Oil

Clove Essential Oil

Anti-neuralgic, this oil is beneficial in treating asthma, intestinal disorders, vomitting, diarrhoea, headaches, memory loss, toothache, mouth ulcers, bronchitis and as an insect repellant.


View more info >
Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender Essential Oil

This oil is beneficial for many things including acne, scarring, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, catarrh, muscular tension, burns, PMT, palpitations, high blood pressure and rheumatism.


View more info >
Basil Essential Oil

Basil Essential Oil

Stimulant, uplifting, anti-depressant; this oil is useful for treatment of fever, indigestion, headaches, muscular tension, colds and chest infections.


View more info >



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Always seek health advice from your doctor, or local  Health Outlet. AcuMedic will be very pleased to offer advice regarding difficulties with this condition. Please see our Arrow Clinic


Please note that although we are confident that our treatments will help the majority of our patients, we cannot absolutely guarantee a cure as the needs and difficulties of each patient can differ greatly



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