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Sinus Pain or Migraine?

Sinus pain and migraines often go together, making it difficult and perhaps unnecessary to differentiate if one seeks to strike the source of what boils down to a severe headache. Generally speaking, migraines are viewed as neurological and sinus problems are bacteriological in nature. Both are related in that they express as inflammatory phenomena.

That is, even though they express differently, both are related to inflammation.

Chinese medicine, inflammatory processes are often attributed to “wind” and “damp”. We all know that the Chinese writing system is pictographic in nature. Technically the Chinese writing system, often referred to as “characters,” is ideographic. Each ideograph conveys a symbolic representation of its referent. Fundamental concepts that were developed with genesis of ideographs are rife with meaning, and since Chinese medicine developed along with the writing system it is worthwhile to examine the meaning of certain characters for deeper understanding of their medical import.

The ideograph “wind” is comprised of an insect within an arch of sorts. Fast forward 3,000 years or so and germ theory affords us the vantage point of surmising that the ideograph for wind references airborne pathogens. Similarly, the ideograph for “dampness” possesses elements of water and fire, the later in the form that conveys its cooking function. If we put wind and damp together what we have is airborne pathogens that combine and cook with fluids: inflammation. If we further track the Chinese medicinal correspondences, we note that wind corresponds to the liver and by extension the neurological system and dampness corresponds with spleen, which deals with the digestive systems. Wind also denotes the effect that arises due to certain deficiencies, which more likely than not point to digestive, i.e., dietary deficiencies.

Proper treatment of wind-damp requires discerning which predominates, wind or damp, in addition to their ensuing effects, primarily fire and stagnation. Since some aspects of wind manifest as quick and sharp pain, acupuncture is extremely effective in accessing the same neurological system to alleviate pain. As some aspects of wind most certainly refer to airborne pathogens, Chinese herbs are essential for clearing the body of bacteria and viruses. For its part, the tumescent cooking of dampness responds best to herbs, though acupuncture can boost metabolic function to complement herbs. In particular, acupuncture is especially helpful for quelling the heat that arises from the long-term presence of dampness. There is also a category of herbs that specifically treats the combination of wind-damp, the herbs of which are known bio-medically to have an analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Interestingly, these are normally associated with use in treating arthritis, which typically arises when dampness and heat congeal to form phlegm. It is all related when pathogenesis is understood as a dynamic dance between the body’s defenses, its weaknesses and the advance of pathogens from the exterior to the interior.

The approach of Chinese medicine is to diagnose headaches within the context of the whole person, determining the preponderance of wind and damp. Sinus headaches and migraines may be two words to describe a snapshot of the same phenomenon or different stages along a continuum of pathogenic invasion. No matter which, acupuncture and herbs are an effective one-two punch to get to the headache at its root.