Headaches are one of the most common complaints we see at Meridian Health Centre. Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists and Herbalists all have their unique approach to headache treatment. The difficult thing for patients is there is often no tangible reason as to WHY they have chronic headaches. Sure, everyone has experienced a headache from lack of sleep, or dehydration – but what about those people who suffer from chronic, often debilitating headaches on a frequent basis? The truth is – you may have some lifestyle habits that are directly causing or aggravating this condition. Sometimes, simply changing one habit can have drastic effects on your health.

We take a holistic approach to health here at our clinic, and we look at a patient not just in terms of their chief complaint – but also at their complex picture of symptoms and lifestyle habits. Today I would like to dive into some of the key lifestyle factors that can contribute to headaches.

Some of the most common factors include:

  • Emotional Stress
  • Overwork
  • Excessive Sexual Activity
  • Irregular Diet

Emotional Stress

It likely isn’t surprising to you that emotional stress can cause headaches. However, “emotional stress” is a rather vague term. Chinese Medicine goes further by breaking down “stress” into 8 specific emotions. These are:

  • Anger
  • Worry
  • Sadness/Grief
  • Fear
  • Shock
  • Pensiveness
  • Guilt
  • Shame

Each negative emotion has its unique imprint on the body. For example, excess anger can cause Liver Yang/Fire to rise to the head. This can lead to a flushed complexion, high blood pressure, and headaches in the temples. Other emotions cause different types of pathology, and therefore different types/locations of headaches.

Overwork

Yin is the cooling, nutritive, moistening energy of the body. Overworking without proper rest can deplete Yin leading to “Yin Deficiency.” Headaches from Yin Deficiency often affect the whole head, and are more dull in nature.

Excessive Sexual Activity

I know a lot of folks will be resistant to me calling this a “negative habit” – but you CAN in fact have too much of a good thing. Everything in life needs to be moderated, even sex. Excessive Sexual Activity depletes the essence of the Kidneys. This Kidney Essence generally has time to replenish naturally, but if you’re getting it on too frequently, your body won’t be able to keep up. This can then lead to headaches in the occipital region (base of the skull), or of the whole head. Dizziness following intercourse is another sign that you might want to cut back on your fun in the bedroom.

Irregular Diet

Diet has a very close relationship/influence on health, especially when it comes to headache pathology. This can be broken down into quite a few different categories. I’ll briefly summarize here, but know you can always contact us at Meridian to get more in depth information.

Not Eating EnoughCan deplete Qi/ Blood leading to mild headaches
OvereatingObstructs the Spleen/Stomach leading to sharp, frontal headaches
Consumption of “Damp” Producing Foods (Dairy, Alcohol, Fried/Greasy foods etc.)Can lead to a dull, heavy, “muzzy,”
feeling in the head. Feeling of a “band” around the head
Overconsumption of Sour FoodsCan negatively affect the Liver leading to headaches in the temples
Eating Too QuicklyLeads to retained food in the stomach. Sharp headaches situated in the forehead
Irregular Meals or Eating Late at NightDepletes Stomach Yin leaidng to dull frontal headaches

As you can see there are a number of ways in which our habits and emotions can lead to Headaches. Luckily, with the advice of a trained practitioner – you’re only an appointment away from getting the relief you’ve been hoping for!

References:

Maciocia, G. (2011). The practice of Chinese medicine the treatment of diseases with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

by Jon McDonell, R.Ac

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