Before I became involved with Chinese Medicine I used to look at books, which gave advice on how to help various conditions. One of the things that interested me was the way in which the advice would often appear to be contradictory. Taking a common complaint like headache is a good illustration of what I mean. Some books on diets for migraine sufferers emphasised the need to avoid coffe, citrus fruits, alcohol others the need to avoid dairy or wheat, which are entirely different food groups. Some would emphasise the need for adequate rest others the need for more or less vigorous exercise to stimulate the system. They would all pretty much teach the need to avoid to much of what we now call stress, what was known then as nervous anxiety, but couldn't really say how much was too much.
A large part of becoming an acupuncturist was the constant reminding of how everyone is an individual and what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. For example a person suffering from Liver fire type headaches which are characterised by a sharp stabbing pain with thirst, a bitter taste in the mouth, red and hot eyes, dizziness and irritability would need entirely different treatment and advice from someone suffering from a Qi deficient headache which would be more characterised by headache coming in bouts with a dull weak pain, poor appetite and breathlessness. Whereas the former would benefit from abstaining from heating foods like curries, alcohol, and coffee and would benefit from exercise, especially outdoors, the latter would need rest and as much nourishing food as they could get down themselves. It is only by appreciating how each individual is unique and therefore their symptom is unique to them that the individual's unique treatment strategy can be evolved. In order to do this an acupuncturist has a number of diagnostic tools at their disposal.
Anyone with headaches reading this can do a bit of self-diagnosis. Firstly, where the headache is can indicate which channels of energy are not working well. Pain on the forehead is linked to the stomach channel, the top of the head to the Liver, side of head to Gallbladder and back of head providing there is no accompanying common cold is linked to the kidneys.
The nature of the pain is also important, a dull muzzy pain with a feeling of heavy head indicates a phenomena known as dampness in the head, this is often worse in damp weather. A sharper ache that might move from side to side and is worse with emotional stress is often a liver type of ache. Throbbing heads, feelings of pressure, hot heads etc are all indicators of different diagnosis.
What might bring your headache on is also good diagnostic information, ie weather conditions. Are you worse in hot, cold, or damp weather?. Will emotional strain or overwork bring it on, this can indicate that your system is too stuck or weak. The Chinese also have a category of headache brought on by what they coyly refer to as overmuch indulgence in affairs of the bedroom.
Whatever it is that affects you, remember that your headache is unique to you, nobody else will have one quite the same because none else is quite the same as you. Whoever you get to treat it needs to take that into account.