The old Tai-chi professor lifts his hands up, instructing his students to follow along. Inhaling, he gathers energy up from the earth and exhaling pushes the energy, or “Qi,” downwards. “Qi down” he says, and all of the students laugh. The idea of relaxing and bringing it “down a notch” traverses all cultures, but in the Ancient East, they’ve been writing about curing headaches by bringing the Qi down for literally thousands of years.
In Eastern Medicine, each meridian correlates with an organ system that can be used to treat the body. Recent research reveals that the traditional meridians actually match very closely with connective tissue called fascia. The fascia is believed to send several different types of signals which help the body to self-heal. This connective tissue, once assumed to just help to hold the body together, is now said to be the “organ” with the most sensation in the body. Unfortunately, this means it can generate a lot of pain. According to Traditional Eastern Medicine, a headache happens when the energy, or Qi, reverses and rises up along a meridian. Which meridian is affected determines which type of headache you have and what it feels like. In order to treat the headache, you must first determine what type of headache it is. Sometimes, multiple meridians are involved. An individualized consultation can The following are some of the major types of headaches and how you can resolve them using eastern meridian therapy.
Damp headaches feel heavy and may be along the forehead, sinuses, or may feel like a band around the head. They are often worse when there is rain or humidity. We can think of these as inflammatory headaches originating in the gastrointestinal tract. The Stomach Meridian runs up from the feet to the hairline of the forehead, and passes the sinuses and eyes. When you feel these headaches starting, you can rub the web of the 2nd and 3rd toes to pull the Qi back down and out of the head. It also helps to relax your abdomen. In the exercise therapy I developed, called Meridian Exercise Therapy, exercises are prescribed to subconsciously relax the stomach meridian becauses it is difficult to be conscious of your posture all day long. If you have this type of headache, it is also extremely important to figure out what types of foods are causing inflammation in your body. A good way to do this is to avoid dairy, gluten, and nightshade vegetables for at least 3 weeks. Then, slowly add them back into your diet paying attention to any pain, gas or bloating. The idea here is that if you have pain and inflammation in your gut, it will cause your headaches. Bitter and digestive herbs such as oregon grape are also applicable and are included in our individualized herbal formulas.
Lastly, be sure that when you eat you are not watching electronics or reading because this will also send the energy of the stomach meridian upwards to the eyes instead of in the gut where the Qi needs to be to digest your food!
These types of headaches are usually in the back of the head and neck, also called the suboccipital region. They are made worse by wind, including the air conditioner/fan, and cold whether. And, often affect people when they are catching a cold. Wearing a scarf or hood often quickly resolves this type of pain. Be sure to cover your feet because the meridian affected in this case, the urinary bladder meridian, runs up the back of the body from the small toe. Like the old wives tales, keeping your feet warm and dry can also help ensure you don’t get these headaches. Herbs like fresh green onions and fresh ginger can help the body to sweat out these headaches. It is important to also sit up on your sit bones, called ischial tuberosities, with your head straight ahead in a firm chair. Or, use a standing desk. The reason for this is, when you roll your pelvis back and slouch in your chair, your head sits forward of your body and the muscles along the back of the neck tighten up in response. Commonly prescribed postural exercises like chin-tucks will actually make these headaches worse as they tighten up the meridian that is already overworked. In Meridian Exercise Therapy, exercises that relax the fascia along the back of the body are prescribed to be performed on a daily basis to help break the bad postural habits our body resorts to when we sit, drive, or use our hands to type etc.
Liver/ Gallbladder Headaches:
These are the monstrous headaches that are commonly diagnosed in western medicine as migraines. They are typically on one or both temples and a from stress! Stress affects the liver and gallbladder meridians. If you have these headaches it is important to remember to relax your shoulders. You can rub the tight muscles in your shoulders which move the Qi downwards, then rub the web of the 1st and 2nd toe. Twists are usually included in exercise sequences to relax the fascia along the sides of the body. In constitutional herbal treatment, we use soothing herbs such as spearmint and lemonbalm to release these headaches.
These headaches from deficiency or exhaustion. Like when you’ve finally finished a very hard exam and you are left with a feeling of emptiness in your brain. Commonly known as, adrenal burnout. If you have these headaches, you need some old fashioned R and R! In Meridian Exercise Therapy and Ancient Eastern Medicine, the kidney meridian is in charge of holding you up against gravity. You can never have too much energy in this meridian. It is depleted through overwork, malnourishment, and even through sex. Black sesame seeds and other herbs with dark colored plant nutrients are prescribed to nourish the kidney. Exercises, that strengthen these large muscles can help you to feel lighter and have more energy, in addition to alleviating headaches. One of these exercises looks like the old Susan Summer’s Thighmaster. Lay on your back and squeeze and release a pillow between your knees. In Meridian Exercise Therapy, the kidney meridian is strengthened using exercises from either the top of the body down, or the bottom up, depending upon your postural photos.
I hope that these descriptions help end your headaches. Many times, multiple meridians are involved in constitutional imbalances and an individualized constitutional analysis can help to determine and treat your specific constitution. Analysis can be conducted online using our Functional Meridian Questionnaire, specific postural photos and photos of your tongue. For more information visit www.meridianexercisetherapy.com
Dr. Rhiannon Hutton is an Herbal Master, Acupuncturist, Chiropractor and a Co-Developer of Meridian Exercise Therapy. She hand blends organic and wildcrafted herbs for each patient and provides individualized exercise therapy, both in-person and online. Questions can be emailed to DocRhi@MeridianExerciseTherapy.com
Rhiannon Hutton, O.M. Dipl., Cofounder