Migraines

According to the Mayo clinic, migraines are characterized by intense throbbing or pulsating sensations in the head, and often have nausea and vomiting as well as extreme sensitivity to light and sound.  The pain may last from hours to days.  Some migraine sufferers may have sensory warning symptoms, referred to as an aura.  These may include flashes of light, and motor and verbal disruptions.    There can also be blind spots or tingling in the arms and legs.

The Mayo clinic also describes Four (4) stages of migraines events.

1-Prodrome stage: Patient may have constipation, depression, food cravings, hyperactivity, irritability, and neck stiffness.

2- Aura stage: patient may have nervous system symptoms that may include flashes of light, sensory changes, motor and verbal changes.  Most migraine sufferers do not have the full aura stage.

3- Attack stage: The head pain occurs from 4 to 72 hours.

4-Postdrome: The patient may feel drained and washed out.  Patient may have deep sleep after the attack.

According to the American Headache Society (AHS), susceptibility to migraines appears to be hereditary.  The causes of migraine are being studied, and the latest research points to a series of neurological changes.  The AHS reports that there is a correlation between the activation of the trigeminal nerve causing a series of events in the meninges and the brainstem and a migraine attack.  Migraine pain shows evidence of inappropriate activation of both primary afferent neurons and higher order neurons.  These events may cause blood vessel dilation, which aggravates the pain and causes more nerve activation.

Migraines also have a pain known as allodynia.  Allodynia is described as a pain, usually on the skin, where pain does not logically need to be.  In migraine sufferers, there is allodynia on the forehead and forearms.  A study has shown that peripheral pain receptors, such as those on the forearms, seem to trigger neurons in the head, leading to migraine pain.  The fact that pain may occur on the forehead and forearm in migraine sufferers, and that it may precipitate a migraine, is very interesting to us when we consider how acupuncture treats migraines.  These areas happen to be where acupuncture points are found that address migraine type pain.  There are major points on the outside of the forearms (between the radius and ulna) that are used for, among many things, all types of headache.  Also, points on the forehead itself are useful for treating headache.  These acupoints have a long history of consistent results in treating a variety of conditions and illnesses.  It would seem modern research and acupuncture practice overlap each other here, as is the case often times.

What can someone who suffers from migraines do on their own to try to help? The following are some acupoints that can be pressed, massaged or squeezed to help reduce the severity or frequency of migraines.

GB 20- In hollow at either side of base of skull, roughly between back of ears and center of back of neck.  Using thumbs, which will slide down right into the point, press-knead into the hollow for a minute or two.

UB2- At the small indentations on the eyebrow where the bridge of the nose meets the inner eyebrow.  Press-knead with finger tips here for  minute or two.

LI4- The center of the muscle that forms a web between the thumb and the knuckle of the index finger.  Find a slightly sensitive area here, and gently but firmly squeeze and manipulate for a minute, each hand.

Lv3- At the top of the foot, in the valley between the first (large) toe and the second toe.  ( This part is usually covered by the “v” of a flip flop sandal). Place the heel of one foot on top of the other foot, and briskly rub the heel on the foot for a minute. Do both sides.

When doing these acupressure exercises, it is best to remember that results come when you also practice deep, calm breathing, practice in a calm quiet place and do them as part of a regular routine for your health.  I hope you find this helpful, and best wishes and health to all!  Thank you,

Stephen Dell-Jones, DOM  Fu Hsing Acupuncture