What are the causes of headaches?

What are the causes of headaches?

Headache is one of the most common disorders seen in clinical practice. It has many possible causes which vary from external factors such as trauma to the head or an invasion of pathogens like wind, cold, heat or dampness or it can be a symptom of an internal disorder. Headaches arising from internal conditions can be the result of a deficiency or a blockage of Qi (energy) or blood in a specific organ or channel.

Traditional Chinese medicine theory makes it possible to identify the site and cause of headaches from their characteristics. Some examples of these are as follows:

Nature of Headache

  • Sudden onset indicates an invasion of exterior pathogens
  • Gradual onset indicates an interior disorder
  • A dull ache relates to a deficiency of Qi or blood
  • A stabbing or sharp pain indicates stagnation of blood in certain organs or channels
  • A feeling of heaviness shows an accumulation of dampness
  • Headache before menstruation indicates stagnation of blood

Location of Pain

  • Top or sides of the head can relate to a Liver disorder. Other associated symptoms can include hypochondriac pain and irritability.
  • Forehead indicates a Stomach disorder. Associated symptoms can be sinus problems.
  • Pain in the whole head can be due to an attack of external pathogens or a Kidney or Spleen deficiency. Associated symptoms can also be a poor appetite, lack of energy, lower back ache.

Many other aggravating and relieving factors such as emotions, different foods and weather conditions can also assist in helping to diagnose the underlying cause of the headache.

Using the tools of tongue and pulse diagnosis as well as extensive questioning, a practitioner can assess each individual’s case and devise a treatment plan targeted at the root of the problem – not the symptom, which is the headache itself.

Not only can traditional Chinese medicine offer assistance in helping to resolve this sometimes life-afflicting condition but it can offer a natural approach to those who have had to rely on painkillers to complete everyday tasks.

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Dr Ping Wang is the clinic founder and senior practitioner of Ping Ming Health. She has over 30 years of experience in traditional Chinese medicine teaching and practice. Dr Ping especially enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chinese medicine through our popular clinic articles, seminars and clinical training of students and practitioners.