Headaches, we all get them but what’s really hurting. It’s not the bones of the skull or the brain tissue itself because they lack the pain sensing nerve fibers which transmit this signal. The areas that can hurt are those that contain a special network of nerve fibers that transmit the pain signal. Specifically these nerve fibers are found in the scalp muscles of the head and the blood vessels found along the surface of the brain. These fibers can be stimulated by stress, muscle tension, and dilation of the blood vessels.
In traditional medicine headaches are usually classified as vascular, tension, traction, or inflammatory. Migraines are the most common type of vascular headache, tension headaches as the name implies are brought on by muscle tension…usually from a stressful situation. Traction headaches can occur if the pain sensitive parts of the head are pulled, stretched, or displaced as in the case of eye muscles tensed to compensate for eyestrain. The inflammation headaches are those related to disease processes such as meningitis and sinusitis.
With Traditional Chinese Medicine headaches are diagnosed from the point of view of the internal organ systems and from the meridian channels involved.
With this approach location is important. Headaches can be predominantly at the base of the skull, the top of the head, in the temple area, behind the eyes, across the forehead, and in some cases involve the entire head. This information provides the acupuncturist with information on organ systems that are at the root cause of the headaches.
The type of pain one experiences is also relevant in Traditional Chinese Medicine; headache pain is commonly categorized as dull, throbbing, or stabbing. Other sensations that are commonly reported are a feeling of heaviness in the head or a sense of stiffness, especially at the base of the skull.
The factors which make a headache better or worse are also important clues that provide additional information on the condition causing the headaches. Headaches that are more predominate during the day are associated with deficient “Yang” energy, while those that are more predominate in the evening are related to deficient “Yin” energy. Other factors which are evaluated and play a role in pattern identification are whether headaches are better with activity or rest and if weather or emotions play a role as well.
If you’re one of the millions that are afflicted with more than the occasional tension headaches consider Acupuncture as an effective alternative treatment.