A Holistic Acupuncture and Wellness Center serving the Frisco/Breckenridge Area since 2004.

Migraine Headaches

Treatment of Migraine Headaches with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Martha a 31 year old female is missing another day of work. She has shut herself in her bedroom, shades drawn because the light hurts with as little noise as possible. The pain is so intense it feels as if her head is exploding. She feels incredibly nauseous and every time she tries to lie down things only get worse. Early that morning she woke up with numbness in her hands and bright starry flashes before her eyes. Martha knew she was in for another killer headache.

Most people will get a headache sometime during their life.

Headaches range from infrequent to occasional tension or sinus headaches all the way to debilitating migraines as described above.

When most people have a headache, they will often try to ignore it or simply take an aspirin or Advil. Many times that will do the trick. What about the others who are not helped with this method and the headaches are interfering with their daily life? Western medicine can offer stronger drugs that are specific to migraines like Maxalt, or strong painkillers like Percocet. While these may lessen or temporarily eliminate the pain, often there are less than ideal side effects. Another issue with these medications is that they only treat the symptoms, ignoring the underlying causes of the headache.

This is where acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine come to the rescue! The above patient Martha (not her real name) is an actual patient that I treated for migraines which had plagued her all of her adult life. After many years of taking prescription migraine meds and only getting partial pain relief, while the frequency of headaches was increasing, she came in to see me. As a matter of fact, the first time I saw her she was feeling the beginnings of a migraine. Only using 2 needles for her treatment that day, she was happily amazed that her headache faded away during her treatment and did not return.

I put her on an herbal formula that addressed both her symptoms and the underlying cause. Helping Martha to see the relationship between her headaches and lifestyle was an important part of her treatment. As we continued treatment with acupuncture and herbs, the frequency and severity of her migraines lessened. She was excited to improve her quality of life.

In Chinese Medicine all kinds of pain (headache, leg pain, stomach pain or anything in between) are from lack of “free flow.” This refers to “free flow” of energy (qi), blood and body fluids. When there is balance within, there is smooth flow, and there will be no pain. When any or all of the above mentioned treasures are out of harmony, some form of pain will result from the stagnation.

Lack of “free flow” comes from either an excess or deficiency. To give metaphors for excess or deficiency think of a flowing stream. In a case of excess stagnation, logs have fallen over the stream causing a blockage. In an example with deficiency, there has been a drought and the stream has turned into stagnant pools along the streambed. Both scenarios will cause pain. Let’s go back to Martha; hers is a good example of excess. Martha’s headache can be thought of with the following metaphor.

Imagine her head full of dry gunpowder just waiting for the right spark. That spark could be wine and chocolate or a feeling of being overwhelmed with stress. That spark begins the pattern of the gunpowder igniting in her head causing the characteristic “exploding” head pain. As mentioned before, this is ultimately from a lack of “free flow”. Often excess types of pain will have a more severe quality, as in Martha’s case. Acupuncture can quickly restore the “free flow”. Chinese herbs are amazing because they endeavor to not only restore “free flow” at the time of the migraine, but act by wetting down and slowly removing the dry gunpowder avoiding future problems.

A deficiency type of headache pain is generally not as severe. The pain is often more dull, enduring – aggravated by exertion and fatigue. These headaches are made worse with loss of blood. The lack of “free flow” in this case is stagnation because there is a lack of qi, blood or body fluids. Just as it is easier and quicker to remove a log dam from a steam than it is to wait for rain to quench a drought, the deficiency type of headache is also very treatable by acupuncture and Chinese herbs. The positive results tend to take a longer period of time in this case. Treatment here focuses on nourishing the deficiency.

As we know, the human body is very complex. Chinese medicine recognizes this, allowing diagnosis to be tailored to each specific person’s headache. More often than not there is a mix of excess and deficiency. A sinus headache is a good example of this. Sinus headaches come about because mucous has blocked the sinuses causing stagnation, therefore causing pain. The mucous is there because there is often an underlying weakness in the digestive system. If the focus is on only drying the mucous, the patient is being done a disservice. Strengthening of the digestive qi along with elimination of the mucous is treating the symptom and the cause. This is done with a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet and lifestyle counseling.

You begin to see that Chinese medicine is a sophisticated functional system with the ability to address the complex health issues of modern day. What’s so wonderful is that treatment is at a level that deals with the root of the problem. This brings about quality of life and health.

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Kathy Castrigno, L.Ac., MS is a licensed acupuncturist and coach who has helped hundreds of people with chronic pain, stress and emotional blockages, and deeper life challenges.

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How Chinese medicine is
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beliefs, and health challenges

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Client Experience:

I’ve been sleeping better and my blood pressure is lower. Not only is Kathy a wonderful acupuncture therapist, she is also an amazing life coach.
- Pat Zanca Breckenridge CO

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Frisco Acupuncture's Kathy Castrigno would like to welcome you to her website.


Kathy Castrigno L.Ac. MSOM

(970) 333-9027
1000 N. Summit Blvd. Suite 200
Frisco, Colorado 80443
(located in the Bank of the West
building upstairs, nearby the Safeway)

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How To Thrive In The Modern World:
A Layperson’s Guide To Chinese Medicine


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