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Infertility and TCM Part 12: Not Tonight, I’ve Got A Headache

By David Kreiner MD

September 30th, 2014 at 10:41 am

 

image courtesy of free digital photos.net/Stuart Miles


“Not tonight, dear, I’ve got a headache.” That well-known phrase is commonly used by both fertile and infertile couples. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”), there are several types of headaches and each relates to several other areas of the body. So, what causes a headache?

The head is the dwelling of the confluence of yang in the body and is closely connected with the organs through meridians and vessels.  When external or internal factors impede the flow of Qi or nutrition to the head or blocks the head orifices headaches can occur.  People experience a variety of headaches with different symptoms related to different syndromes.

Supraorbital Headaches

Supraorbital headaches may be one- or two-sided above the eyebrow and may spread over the entire forehead.   TCM believes that this pain is caused mainly by invasion of wind heat pathogens or wind pathogens that cause stasis of the flow of Qi to the head.  In addition, dysfunction of the stomach and gallbladder meridians are thought to play an important role in causing the headache.

When wind heat is responsible there may be a distending feeling in the forehead accompanied by a teary red eye that is sensitive to the light.  Patients may have exterior symptoms such as fever and aversion to a blowing wind.  The tip of the tongue is red and a thin yellow coating is typically seen on the surface of the tongue.  The pulse is felt strongest with the lightest of pressure over the radial pulse, a so-called “floating” pulse and is rapid.

Wind stasis that blocks the flow of Qi to the head typically induces a stabbing pain over the eyebrow associated with light sensitivity.  It is exacerbated with pressure.  The tongue has a purplish color to it and the pulse is said to have a taut guitar string like quality.

Distending Headaches

Distending or splitting headaches in TCM are usually the result of abundant Qi and blood flowing into the head that lead to localized stagnation, and disturb the head orifices. The usual disharmony patterns are:  Invasion of wind heat, liver yang rising and flaming up of liver fire.

Invasions of wind heat induces a splitting sensation in the head accompanied by fever, aversions to wind, thirst, redness in the face as well as eyes and tongue which is also typically covered by a yellow coating.  The pulse is felt very superficially (“floating”) and is rapid.  Treatment is aimed at expelling wind and clearing heat using herbs and/or acupuncture.

Liver yang rising induces a distending headache associated with dizziness, tinnitus, numbness and/or tingling in toes and/or fingers, insomnia, lumbar pain, weakness in the knees and redness in the face and tongue which has a yellow coating.  The pulse is said to feel like a “guitar string” and is rapid.  These symptoms may be exacerbated by emotional stress.  Treatment is geared towards calming the liver, subduing yang and nourishing kidney and liver which also is accomplished with herbs and acupuncture.

Flaming up of liver fire likewise causes a distending headache but said to be more severe splitting accompanied by bloodshot eyes, a bitter taste, lower chest discomfort, irritability, dreams that disturb sleep, a red tongue that has both a yellow and greasy coating and the pulse is “guitar string”-like and rapid.  Treatment is to clear the heat and eliminate dampness.

Heavy Sensation Headaches

Patients sometimes describe headaches that are characterized by a heavy feeling in the head. This feeling is commonly seen in tension headaches, headaches from stress felt in the neck or headaches due to functional disorders.

According to TCM, dampness is the most common factor causing the heavy sensation headache. As dampness pathogens are said to be turbid and heavy in nature, they tend to obstruct the flow of Qi in the meridians. Other disharmonies such as stagnation of the liver, dysfunction of the middle burner and improper ascending of lucid yang can also result in a heavy sensation headache.

Wind dampness obstructs the flow of Qi inducing the heavy sensation headache accompanied by fatigue, heavy sensation in the limbs, chest stuffiness, lack of appetite, urinary problems, loose bowels and a greasy white tongue coat.  The symptoms may be aggravated during humid or rainy weather.  Treatment is to dispel wind and eliminate dampness.

Damp heat will cause heavy sensation headaches or distending headaches associated with a red face and tongue covered by a yellow coating.  Patients describe a hot sensation in the body, irritability, lack of appetite, chest stuffiness, abdominal distension, scanty yellow urine and constipation.  Typically symptoms worsen in the afternoon.  Treatment is to clear the heat and eliminate dampness.

Phlegm dampness obstructs Qi flow in the meridians to the head causing the heavy sensation headache typically also with dizziness and a foggy feeling.  Patients may also experience chest oppression, stomach upset, excessive sputum, fatigue, a bulky tongue with teeth marks and a greasy white-coated tongue.  Treatment is to invigorate the spleen eliminate damp and phlegm and restore the flow of Qi.

Stagnation of the liver can cause headaches with heavy sensation and dizziness, chest discomfort, stomach upset, belching, depression, forgetfulness, lack of appetite and loose bowels and dreams that disturb sleep.  Symptoms worsen with emotional stress.  Treatment is to sooth the liver, regulate Qi and harmonize the organs of the upper abdomen known as the middle burner.

Qi deficiency of the middle burner (including Spleen, Stomach and Gall Bladder) in addition to causing the heavy sensation headache can cause dizziness, paleness, fatigue, shortness of breath, lack of appetite loose bowels and a pale tongue.  Invigorating the middle burner, replenishing Qi and promoting the ascent of lucid yang are treatments for this ailment.

With all this going on, is it any wonder people often use headaches as a lovemaking excuse?

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Have you ever used…or would you consider using… acupuncture to treat chronic or severe headaches?

 

 

photo credit:

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Herbs_and_Spices_g68-Chinese_Herbal_Medicines_p55066.html/Stuart Miles

 

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