the other day, a patient came to see me for her first acupuncture appointment complaining of headaches.  i talked to her at length about her headaches, where in her head she had them, the type of pain she was having, what she had tried already, etc.  and although her headaches brought her in to see me, i still needed to look at all aspects of this patient.  so, i began with my rather long list of questions, starting with her digestion and ending with heart palpitations! 
why all the questions?  there are some obvious questions i should ask when a patient presents with a headache:  is she dehydrated?  has she eaten?  did she eat a trigger food?  is she tired?  does she have eye strain?  where is she in her cycle?  and then, there are so many more that we look at in chinese medicine.  it's fascinating, actually.  normally we think about headaches and migraine and we blame the obvious foods, i.e. chocolate, red wine, coffee, and such.  in chinese medicine, we look at what foods damage or inhibit the digestive system for each person.  when the digestive system doesn't work properly, it becomes sluggish and swampy.  people feel tired and heavy and don't want to exercise or move.  this leads to stagnation and blockage....just like a dam with a bunch of folliage and debris backed up.  eventually, this has to break through or burst over and the result is a whopper of a headache, or a slow leak which is more of a lingering and dull headache. 

this is a headache due to dampness - just one cause of a headache with its own treatment.  a very different type of headache is due to yin deficiency, i.e. fluid deficiency.  yin is water, calmness, inactivity, coolness, female, etc.  yang is male, active, fire, daytime, etc.  if a patient becomes yin deficient - which could also be dehydrated, blood deficient or even low in estrogen (around menstruation), the yang becomes relatively higher.  the yin is an anchor for the holds the yang down where it belongs.  but if there is not enough yin, the yang flies up to the head and causes a punding headache with a read face and ringing in the ears.  this is a completely different scenario then the first headache i described.

there are so many different types of headaches.  how can i differentiate?  QUESTIONS!!!  that's why i ask so many of them.  it's not that i'm just nosy.  i mean, yeah...i like to pry!  but it's imperative that i know these details so that i can make a correct diagnosis, pick the correct acupuncture points and the best herbal formulas for your headache!  who knew headaches could be so much fun?  well...for me anyway!!  ;)  don't worry, the sarcasm is always free!