Migraine Headaches 101

Headaches | | October 22, 2009 at 5:00 am
Photo by allspice1

Photo by allspice1.

Imagine this: You are out enjoying a great evening with friends. Maybe you have a little local red wine, some lovely havarti or blue cheese, and now you’re sitting down to watch a show you’ve been looking forward to, even though the pyrotechnics seem very bright. A few minutes into the show, your vision starts to get a little blurry. Then a tingling sensation runs down your arm. Suddenly, you realize what’s happening: a migraine headache.


All you want to do now is find a dark, quiet space (as soon as possible, thank you very much) to crawl into and lie down for a few hours. Or maybe a few days, depending on how long this one decides to last.

The ability to function normally is not even a possibility at this point. While some migraine sufferers find relief with intense pain medications (including anti-seizure medications), there are some serious side effects including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle cramping. Here is a list of drugs and possible side effects from the Mayo Clinic.

Are you having migraine headaches? Read on and find out how to determine if your headache is a migraine and to find out more about prevention.

Photo by Liz Henry.

Typically, migraine headaches present as:

  • One sided headache (unilateral)
  • Throbbing (pounding, painful)
  • Auras- these can be a vision disturbances (such as blurriness), flashes¬† of light, or tingling sensation in the limbs

Photo by Tim O’Bryan.

Triggers for migraine headaches:

  • Aged cheeses including blue, cheddar, anything that isn’t fresh. Fresh mozzarella and feta are alternative options.
  • Wine. Sorry wine-lovers butt he tannins in wine- especially red wine- are known to induce migraines. Try a delicious grape juice instead!
  • Bright lights. Especially those pesky florescent lights that seem to be in a lot of office buildings¬†
  • Menstrual cycles. Women may experience headaches during their menstrual cycles due to changes in the hormone levels

Managing migraine headaches with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is simple. See your practitioner before you have a migraine. The idea is to prevent the headache from coming on at all. If you do feel a migraine coming on, please don’t hesitate to call for a treatment.

By using acupuncture for weekly treatments, you can lengthen the time between migraine attacks, lessen the duration of the headache, and eventually have none at all.

How to prevent future migraines:

  • Drink plenty of water¬†
  • Avoid the wine, but also try to avoid dairy and gluten products
  • Read the research! Educate yourself and check out this site to read about studies that prove positive outcomes for patients suffering from migraine and tension headaches.
  • Exercise, but go slowly at first if you aren’t a regular exercise guru.

AmyAmy Chitwood, L.Ac. is a graduate of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. She is nationally board certified in Chinese herbal medicine and manages the Portland Acupuncture Blog.

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