Headache & migraine treatment options

Got a headache? The biggest cause is dehydration, so first, have a drink of water. Other common causes are caffeine withdrawal, high blood pressure, stress, low blood sugar, and tight neck muscles. If you have persistent or severe headaches, you should get them checked out by a healthcare professional (If only so they can say “It’s not a tumah!”), but for minor annoyances you can treat it yourself with acupressure (points listed below).

Human skull bonesI usually find that migraines are caused by hormonal imbalances, or by neck muscle tension pulling on cranial bones. Our skulls are not a giant fixed globe: There are lots of different plates and oddly shaped bones that make up our brain protection. The joints (called “sutures”) are shaped like jigsaw puzzles.

My favorite cranial bone, the sphenoid. It barely shows at the side of the head, but inside it makes a gorgeous butterfly shape. When torqued, it also gave me a monstrous migraine headache!

My favorite cranial bone, the sphenoid. It barely shows at the side of the head (it’s pink in the other picture), but inside it makes a gorgeous butterfly shape. When torqued, it also gives me a monstrous migraine headache! I keep them away by getting care for my neck, and using the acupressure points below when one threatens to attack…

Our bones move with a subtle pulsing called the craniosacral rhythm. If the neck muscles attached to the skull get too tight, they can jam up those joints and cause migraines. The fix: Acupuncture and medical massage for the muscles involved. Craniosacral therapy by a skilled practitioner is also wonderful, but be sure to see someone who’s thoroughly trained. A weekend seminar is not enough! If there are hormonal causes, acupuncture is superb for that as well.

Here’s a handy acupressure point for any headache, including a migraine: It’s in that “second piercing” spot, below the anti-tragus. Press firmly for a few seconds. If you have an earring in, you should remove it if possible, at least until your headache passes. For more information on ear points, check out this article. Also, look at LI-4KD-1, and GB-21 and TB-5  if you have neck tension. Definitely read this if you’re considering a Daith piercing. 

Press firmly with a fingertip or fingernail. It will hurt, but it'll be worth it!
Press firmly with a fingertip or fingernail to stop a headache or migraine. It will hurt, but it’ll be worth it!

 

GB-21 (neck / shoulder tension, rebellious Qi)

Jian Jing (Shoulder Well) is a place many people tend to store their stress. Every day, people come into my office and complain about neck and “shoulder tension.” They really mean the trapezius and levator scapula muscles, not the shoulder joint. I’ve been saying for years that we need a better name for this part of the body, but “noulder” isn’t catching on (for obvious reasons!).

Referred pain and trigger points for the trapezius.

Referred pain and trigger points for the trapezius.

The trapezius is a big muscle, and it does a lot. Carrying heavy loads (especially unbalanced ones – so carry a small purse and use both straps of your backback!), working with your arms up (I’m talking to you, hair stylists!), or just general hunchiness over a computer… all are common causes of tension. The traps refer pain over the head to the eyebrow area, so shoulder tension can give you a severe frontal headache.

GB-21 also descends energy, so it’s good for rebellious rising Qi causing headaches, dizziness, heartburn, or vomiting.

GB-21 for relieving neck and shoulder tension.

 

Find GB-21 at the top of the upper thoracic area (aka “noulder”), halfway between the shoulder joint and the spine. Press firmly for 10-15 seconds with a healing intention. NOTE: Do not use GB-21 on pregnant women.

Also – look into some better ways to release your stress!

KD-1 (emotional grounding, headache)

Yong Quan (Gushing Spring) KD-1 is located on the sole, about an inch below the “butt cheeks” formed by the ball of the foot. It descends energy, so it’s great for treating some types of headaches, gastroperesis, and acid reflux. It also grounds the patient emotionally and supports the Kidney (Remember, the Chinese energetic organ called the Kidney is not the same as your anatomical kidneys). The Kidney stores your Essence and is associated with the emotion of Fear, so this is a doubly good point to use for PTSD or other issues with being afraid. Of course it’s also useful for plantar fascitis and other foot problems. Press firmly for 20-30 seconds, with a loving, healing intention.

LI-4 (headache, arm or facial pain, infection, hot flashes)

LI-4: Hegu. This point is astonishingly useful for a wide variety of complaints, but don’t use it if your patient is pregnant!

Large Intestine 4 is the acupoint most well-known by the general public. I first had it taught to me by a riding instructor when I was a kid living in rural Virginia. The name for this point is Hegu, “Joining Valley,” which is a reference to its anatomical location on the back of your hand, in that fleshy area between the thumb and forefinger. Feel around – it’ll be tender if you need it – but the easiest way to find it is to squeeze your thumb against your hand. The highest point of the muscle is where you want to press. Use firm, gentle pressure for 10-20 seconds with a healing intention. Try both sides.

Hegu, or Joining Valley, is a tremendously useful point. It moves stagnation, so you can use it to clear pain and stiffness anywhere in the upper body. Hegu will be particularly effective along the LI channel, which runs from the nail of the forefinger, along the forearm to the lateral (outside) elbow, up the arm and across the shoulder, eventually crossing the upper lip to end at the opposite side of the nose. Shoulder and elbow pain, carpal tunnel, and (of course) headaches are common uses. It’s specifically the Ruler of the Face, so it’s doubly powerful for frontal headaches, eye pain, sinus blockage, and tooth pain. It also releases heat and is part of a point combination for fighting viral or bacterial infections. If  you are prone to hot flashes, this point could be your new best friend. Also use LI-11, pictured here, to clear heat.

And by the way… the leading cause of headache is dehydration. Drink a glass of water!

WARNING: Because Hegu is a moving point, DO NOT use it if you are pregnant or bleeding. It can induce a miscarriage or increase blood loss. On the other hand, if you are overdue and want to evict your baby, this is a great way to do so, along with some other points (assuming everyone is healthy and it’s not a complicated pregnancy!). It will usually increase menstrual flow if the patient is having her period. If you have a severe headache paired with sudden loss of motor control or speech, get to a hospital immediately. DO NOT use LI-4 until you are sure you are not having a hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding inside the brain). This goes for head injuries, too!