Headaches & Tinnitus

How Chinese Medicine Addresses Headaches

Western medicine designates types of headaches such as cluster headaches, tension headaches, or migraines to a set of symptoms; in Chinese medicine, diagnosis of headaches depends on a set of patterns. Chinese herbs can alleviate headaches and migraines by addressing the root imbalances leading to them. The strategies listed are not quick fixes for headaches and migraines; the herbs listed address the root organ system imbalances related to headaches and must be taken consistently for many months to preclude headaches from developing in the first place. Here are some of the more common patterns of imbalance related to headaches according to Chinese medical theory:

Liver Qi Stagnation Headache

In most cases, Liver imbalances are at the root of Headaches. The most common Liver disharmony is Liver Qi Stagnation. As in nature, heat in the body rises. In the case of Liver Heat, the Heat can rise through the meridians (or channels) and Liver heat often rises through the Gall Bladder channel. The Liver and Gall Bladder channels are connected and the Gall Bladder channel traverses the occipital area of the skull (the base of the skull), the head itself, and ends at the temples. Often these headaches present as one sided headaches. The Liver is pacified with the free and easy movement of Qi and Blood circulating throughout.

Liver-Fire Headache

If Liver Qi Stagnation is not addressed and eliminated, the Liver energy will continue to heat up and headaches will become more severe. Often these headaches are related to extreme stress and frustration, angry outbursts, red face, sharp pain, dizziness, or nausea. This type of headache may get worse when you lie down.

Blood Deficient Headache

The Liver is most happy when it has abundant Liver Blood flowing through it keeping it nourished and cool. These types of headaches may be chronic and dull in nature with an empty headed feeling; fatigue with pain relief with rest; paleness and worsening of headache with exertion.

Blood Stagnation Headache

Blood formation and Blood movement require an abundance of Blood; if Blood Deficiency persists, Blood Stagnation can develop. Blood Stagnation can also be due to trauma, circulatory impingements, or Qi Deficiency. This type of headache will likely present with sharp, stabbing, ongoing fixed pain.

Qi Deficient Headache

Headaches that are associated with overwork and exhaustion may be due to Spleen Qi Deficiency. These headaches are dull throughout the whole head or frontal area, and are relieved with rest.

Internal Damp-Phlegm Headache

If Spleen Qi Deficiency persists, Internal Dampness can develop. This type of headache would present with a feeling of heaviness of the head and a dull persistent pain exacerbated by wet weather.

Kidney Deficiency Headache

This type of headache would be dull, likely at the crown of the head or radiate from the back of the head to the front, and would be alleviated with rest.

Tinnitus and TCM

Causes of Tinnitus and Vertigo in Chinese Medicine

Tinnitus and vertigo have many possible underlying causes according to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and herbal therapy to address tinnitus would depend on its ‘root’ cause and the Organ Systems involved. Often, tinnitus due to Excess is aggravated by cupping the hands over the ears, and tinnitus due to Excess is relieved by cupping the ears. Here are some of the more common patterns according to TCM:

Kidney Deficiency Tinnitus

This type of tinnitus typically comes on gradually. The sound is often low and can resemble water rushing, a low buzz, or low ringing. With Kidney Yin Deficiency, hot flashes or afternoon-evening sweats may be present along with other Kidney Yin Deficiency indications.

Kidney-Essence Depletion Tinnitus

This is the most common type of tinnitus related to aging and would have a gradual onset and low sound. Other indications may be poor memory, slight dizziness, sore back and knees, and fear.

Kidney-Heart Imbalances Tinnitus

In Chinese medicine, the Kidney represents the Water Element, and the Heart represents the Fire Element. The balance of Water and Fire is crucial in the body to maintain wellness. TCM recognizes a break down in the communication between the Kidney energetic organ system and the Heart which can occur if either organ system is compromised. This type of tinnitus would present with Kidney Deficient symptoms along with Heart Blood Deficiency symptoms such as palpitations, sleeping problems, poor memory, or anxiety marked with a sense of impending doom.

Liver Excess Tinnitus and Vertigo

Tinnitus with a sudden onset and loud noises is often attributed to Liver-Fire rising upward due to emotional issues such as anger or frustration; this results in Internal Wind which is often part of conditions with dizziness. This type of tinnitus may present with a sharp, painful, stabbing headache or dizziness-vertigo.

Kidney-Liver Imbalances Tinnitus

Chronic Liver Qi Stagnation, often due to Yin Deficiency or Liver Blood Deficiency, may result in tinnitus with both Liver Excess and Kidney Deficient qualities.

Liver-Spleen Imbalance Tinnitus and Vertigo

Long standing Spleen Qi Deficiency which is not properly addressed may result in Internal Dampness, which combined with Liver Qi Stagnation, can result in tinnitus due to Phlegm-Fire rising upward. This type of tinnitus would be marked with Liver indications possibly along with a heavy head, dizziness or vertigo, and the sound of crickets.

Length of Herbal Therapy

It will take many months of tonic herbal therapy to correct the Organ Level Deficiencies which have caused your tinnitus; think 8-10 months of ongoing herbal application. Meanwhile, if it is hard for you to hear over your tinnitus, ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so you can see their faces. Seeing their expressions may help you understand them better. Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Also, tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.

Other Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss. It can also be a symptom of other health problems. According to estimates by the American Tinnitus Association, at least 12 million Americans have tinnitus. Of these, at least 1 million experience it so severely that it interferes with their daily activities. People with severe cases of tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep.

What causes tinnitus according to Western medicine?

  • Hearing loss. Doctors and scientists have discovered that people with different kinds of hearing loss also may have tinnitus.
  • Loud noise. Too much exposure to loud noise can cause noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Trauma and surgery
  • Pharmaceutical medicine. More than 200 medicines can cause tinnitus. If you have tinnitus and you take medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your medicine could be involved.
  • Other health problems. allergies, tumours, and problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.

Think about things that will help you cope. Many people find listening to music very helpful. Focusing on music might help you forget about your tinnitus for a while. It can also help mask the sound. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, the wind, or even crickets.

Avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse. This includes smoking, alcohol, and loud noise. If you are a construction worker, an airport worker, or a hunter, or if you are regularly exposed to loud noise at home or at work, wear earplugs or special earmuffs to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from getting worse.