Most of us suffer from the occasional headache; whether it is due to dehydration, hormonal changes, sinus or even migraines.  According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the head is where the yang meridians of the arms and legs meet, and the governing vessel which controls yin qi of the body also reach the head.  TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) regards the head as “the confluence of yang” or “the meeting place of yang”.   Moreover, essence and blood of the five zang organs and lucid yang of the six fu organs are all infusing into the head; nourishing the brain and orifices of the head.  The head is closely connected with all other parts of the body, and all the organs are responsible for nourishing it.

A headache is a subjective symptom and a common pain.  It can develop on its own or as a sign of other health problems.  Headaches may be caused by problems in the head or elsewhere inside the body.  Headaches have numerous causes and can involve different pathological mechanisms.  TCM generally classified headaches into two major categories:  exogenous headaches and endogenous headaches.

  • headachepart2Exogenous headaches are associated with external pathogens. An unhealthy lifestyle or temporary bodily weakness can make the head susceptible to external pathogens.  These pathogens enter the meridians of the head, interrupt the body’s yang qi flowing upward causing blood and qi stagnation in the head.  The six pathogens include wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness and fire.
  • Endogenous headaches are associated with internal health problems.
  • Depletion of kidney essence or insufficient brain marrow makes the head undernourished and dysfunctional.
  • Emotional upsets or stress can lead to liver qi stagnation which will cause liver fire over a period of time. Fire might attack the head and interrupt its orifices.
  • When the spleen is dysfunctional it cannot transform food and drink into nutrient essence. There will be inadequate nutrient essence to supply the head and mental activity will weaken.  A dysfunction in the spleen also produces dampness and phlegm that attaches to the head orifices directly.
  • Headaches following head injuries are due to blood stasis formed in the head.


In Acupuncture, the classification of headaches provides guidelines in a clinical practice for quick identification of the meridians and organs involved in a given type of headache to determine what specific functions need to be restored.  These classifications are divided into the following groups:

Location of pain Associated disharmonies, organs or meridians
All over the head Yin Deficiency of the liver and kidney

Deficiency of blood and qi

Lower back of the head and neck Hyperactive yang
Head crown Coldness
Temples, both sides of the head Liver fire
Front head involving the eyebrow region Stomach meridian
Back of the head and neck Bladder meridian
Head crown involving the eyes Liver meridian
Headache accompanied by toothache and sore throat Kidney meridian
Headache with heavy sensation and accompanied by diarrhoea and sweating Spleen meridian

The nature of the pain helps to understand the cause and underlying disharmony pattern which in turn will provide guidelines to decide the specific method of relieving the headache.

Nature of pain Associated pathological factors
Dragging pain or throbbing pain Hyperactive yang

Fire or heat

Pain with a heavy bearing-down sensation Phlegm or dampness
Cold pain with a marked pricking sensation Hyperactive yang

Qi stagnation

Liver fire


Lingering, dull pain with a hollow empty sensation Depletion of essence and blood
Pain and dizziness Insufficiency of qi and blood

Here is some interesting facts on headaches you might not have known:

  • In ancient times, headaches were thought to be the work of evil spirits and rituals were performed to get rid of the evil spirits.
  • Ice cream can give you a headache because it causes the blood vessels in the head to contract and spasm.
  • Tension headaches are the most common headaches and are a result of your neck and shoulder muscles going into spasm. Tension headaches can last for days.
  • Hangover headaches are caused due to dehydration and low blood sugar. Hangover headaches can be cured by drinking large amounts of water and sugared tea.
  • Lifestyle plays an important part in preventing headaches. Exercise regularly, eat healthy meals regularly and drink lots of water and you will find your headaches will reduce dramatically.


For more information on how Acupuncture can treat your headaches and migraines, contact me for a complimentary consultation on 076 298 4992 or info@cape-acupuncture.com.