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    Migraine is a form of headache, usually very intense and disabling. It is a neurologic disease of vascular origin characterized by attacks of sharp pain involving (usually) one half of the skull and accompanied by nausea, vomiting, photophobia and occasionally visual (or rarely other) disturbances known as aura. The symptoms and their timing vary considerably among migraine suffers, and to a lesser extent from one migraine attack to the next.

    In some cases, migraine can cause seizures such as a tonic-clonic seizure. Stroke symptoms (passing or permanent) are seen in very severe subtypes.

    Symptoms (see also Migraines and Headaches - types and causes )

    Migraine is often caused by the expansion of the blood vessels of the head and neck. Classical migraine (migraine with aura) is forerun by a group of symptoms called aura, whereas common migraine does not have any indicator for the impending headache. A few (perhaps fortunate) people actually get aura without migraine. Cluster headaches have similar symptoms, but tend to recur in minutes or hours, rather than days, and affect a different area of the face.

    Migraine can accompany, in some cases, another type of headache called tension headache.

    Migraine often runs in families and starts in adolescence, although some research indicates that it can start in early childhood or even in utero. Migraine occurs more frequently in women than men, and is most common between ages 15-45, with the frequency of attacks declining with age in most cases.

    Because their symptoms vary, an intense headache may be misdiagnosed as a Migraine by a layperson. Where possible, see a doctor to determine if the headaches are a symptom of something else.


    Treatment focuses on three areas:
    1. Elimination of triggers
    2. Abortive drugs
    3. Preventive drugs

    In many patients the incidence of migraine can be reduced through diet changes to avoid certain chemicals present in such foods as cheddar cheese and chocolate, and in most alcoholic beverages. Other triggers may be situational and can be avoided through lifestyle changes.

    Traditional Chinese Medicine

    Headaches can be due to a multitude of factors; arthritis of the neck, dental problems, sinusitis, stress and tension, and head injury are a few of the many causes. Headaches have been dealt with as a separate section because they are so common and they span many of the 'body systems'.

    Migraine is a particular type of headache and worthy of special mention. Migraine can be induced by a variety of stimuli such as foods, noise and stress, and such headaches are usually accompanied by severe incapacitating pain, nausea, vomiting, and visual patterns or flashes in front of the eyes. Many people describe severe 'tension headaches' as migraines and although these headaches are not strictly migraines, the dividing line between other headaches and migraine is frequently rather woolly. Migraine is probably best thought of as a severe headache associated with nausea.

    Headaches are a common complaint and a notoriously difficult one to treat effectively, and they can be the cause of a considerable amount of distress and marital disharmony. Acupuncture has been used to treat a wide variety of headaches, particularly migrainous headaches, and the results obtained have been very encouraging. The published work suggests that between 65-95 per cent of all headache sufferers obtain significant and long lasting pain relief from acupuncture treatment. Migraines seem to respond as well as, if not better than, other types of headache.

    Acupuncture therapy for headaches may cause the headaches to vanish completely, or occur with a markedly decreased intensity and/or frequency. The pain relief resulting from acupuncture can sometimes be maintained for some years and re-treatment is usually required less frequently for headaches than for other conditions such as osteoarthritis.


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