Headaches can be an annoyance and can prevent you from performing your best. From my experience, people who get headaches the most usually fall into two groups. One group includes people who simply use their brain a lot. They’re lawyers, teachers, writers, worriers, busy mothers, did I exclude anyone? They’re people who put overtime in their thought process. So it shouldn’t seem strange that they get headaches. It’s like an athlete who overuses a muscle. That muscle goes into spasms and wants a massage. The other group of people that seem to get frequent headaches seem to have been in an accident of some sort, maybe having experienced a concussion or some kind of post traumatic stress disorder.
Then there are those people who normally don’t get a headache and suddenly feel a headache coming on. You might know why you are getting a headache, like you didn’t get enough sleep or you drank too much last night. Or you may have no idea why you have a headache, and you might be annoyed because you think you’ve been really healthy lately. Sometimes we don’t care why we have a headache but just want a quick fix.
Traditional Chinese Medicine usually has a very logical reason and answer for lots of our problems and headaches are not an exception. A headache, according to TCM, is stagnant qi and blood in the head, neck or some other part of the body affecting the head. The way to combat this stasis is circulation. What do many of these headache prescription drugs do? While I was working at a neurology center that had a headache center, one of the doctors told me that some migraine medicines simply bring circulation to the occipital ridge. No wonder acupuncture works so well for migraines. If that’s all it takes, some circulation to the head, then we should be able to help ourselves, with a bit of elbow grease, remedy a headache without taking drugs or prescription meds that affect our liver and kidneys and may have addictive qualities.
Here are 5 simple strategies you can try.
1. Drink as much water at room temperature as possible, and consider using a water supplement like Emergen-C or Nuun. The oxygen and electrolytes will help with circulation to the brain. Sometimes just hydrating yourself can make you feel better all over!
2. Eat foods rich in B Vitamins like salmon, shellfish, poultry, chickpeas, oatmeal, leafy greens, bananas, and occasionally, meat and liver.
3. Apply pressure to your occipital ridge. This is a favorite point of mine and is called UB 10. You don’t need needles to access this powerful point. Squeeze the back of your head at the upper base of your neck and hold for a few minutes. You can also lay down and place your fingers around the base of your head and apply consistent pressure for 5-10 minutes. Refer to the first photo at the beginning of the blog to see Ana, a patient of mine, massaging her occipital ridge.
4. Massage your temples with slow deep pressure. Try keeping direct pressure above your ears, finding the tender spots and keeping mild pressure for a few seconds at a time.
5. Massage Gallbladder 21. This point is located by pinching the shoulder muscle with your thumb and middle finger and is commonly used for stress, facial pain, headaches, toothaches and neck pain. Use with caution in pregnant women.
Some other points you can massage include:
Large Intestine 4 (LI4): He Gu
The location is between the first and second finger above the wrist. This point is good for stress, headaches, toothaches, facial pain and neck pain. However, as a word of precaution, it can induce labor and must never be used during pregnancy.
Triple Energizer 3 (TE3): Zhong Zhu
This point is located in the groove formed by the tendons of the 4th and 5th finger, behind the knuckles and is commonly used in the clinic for temporal headaches, shoulder and neck tension, and upper back pain.
Large Intestine 10 (LI10): Shou San Li
This point is located on the outer surface of the forearm and three fingers breadth below the elbow crease when the elbow is bent 90 degrees. This point is commonly used for neck tightness, shoulder pain, diarrhea, and tennis elbow.