Headache and Insomnia:
a detailed case history
Joanie, (not her real name) a registered nurse in her early 50’s, in a demanding workplace of terminally ill patients, came in wanting help with her debilitating headaches and migraines. She has had a history of migraines since her early twenties associated with her menses. A secondary problem was her insomnia since her hysterectomy at age 47.
The first treatment focused on the Gallbladder meridian. According to Chinese medical theory, this channel is often associated with frustration and indecisiveness. Physically, this meridian does start near the eye corners and traces a path very close to many common migraine areas. Joanie mentioned her pain was like a stabbing claw in her left eye running into her temples.
After the treatment started and the Gallbladder meridian, along with a few points along the Bladder channel (which are associated with fear and anxiety) were stimulated located only in the leg area in order to pull some of the excess energy causing the pressure down from the head area.
As Joanie was relaxing, the most important part of her treatment begins. As she started to let go of the everyday “thinking brain”, her more intuitive side was activated, without effort or planning. The patient-practitioner rapport has been established. Instead of leaving the room after the needles were inserted (or any other kind of stimulus), the practitioner stays and a dialogue begins. What arises from this intuitive and spontaneous exchange is the insight from her that when her period first started, her mother, who was always angry and neglectful towards her, felt very inconvenienced. Yet her mother celebrated her friend’s first period as a rite of passage. That left Joanie feeling very confused and angry. That pain, over time, resulted in an energetic blockage whenever she had her period. A migraine before, during and after her every period for 25 years was the result. By the end of the treatment the migraine she came in with was completely gone. However, the chronic nature of the migraines was quite serious and she was warned that there was much more work to do.
2nd Treatment: 1 week later
When she came in a week later, Joanie had a very bad migraine the past week. Upon questioning, she admitted she was very much overworked and could not say no when asked to work overtime. This was a common scenario for many years and a constant struggle. Again, her Gallbladder meridian was stimulated along with some other points along various channels playing a supporting role. During the patient-practitioner exchange, it was revealed that she held deeply intense anger at herself for not being able to stand up for herself. She could not understand why she always ended up in the same situation, over and over. As a result of this expression of her anger, she was able to release some stagnation in the meridians and most likely in other areas of her body where she was holding these feelings.
3rd Treatment: 1 week later
By the 3rd week, Joanie came in very pleased. She still had tension headaches, but not the debilitating migraine type. She had not missed work or sleep because of them. In her words, at least her headaches “do not rule her life anymore.” This third treatment was focused on both the Gallbladder and Liver meridians, as they are closely associated in Chinese medicine. Again, during the patient-practitioner exchange, she made a decision to go in the direction of wanting her perspective of life and work broadened. She wanted to continue to feel better and let new thoughts in to push out old belief systems that no longer served her. Again, in her normal everyday thinking, she would not have said it in that way. But her insights are coming from that part of her that contains this deeper wisdom, or innate intelligence, that can be accessed in this relaxed state.
4th Treatment: 1 week later
By the 4th week, Joanie had a reoccurrence of a one migraine during the week. She was still better, as her headaches were constant before. This reoccurrence, by the way, is not unusual. It is not that the treatments are not working or holding, it is just that the body is not yet stable and strong enough yet. Internal changes and therefore internal chemistry has already happened and continuing to heal the body and mind, but more time and work is needed to make it more permanent.
During this treatment, Joanie realized that she was holding back intense anger at her father for not standing by her during her mother’s verbal abuses. But since she loved her father, she felt conflicted to have these feelings. The result was another factor that contributed to her migraines. It required her body to expend a lot of energy to hold these conflicting emotions in and away from her conscious mind. The internal pressure thus generated was an additional cause of her pain. Needles were inserted to help her release this very real pressure, as the suppressed emotions again created the energetic blockages in her head over time.
5th treatment: 3 weeks later
Joanie’s fifth treatment was 3 weeks later. The body needed time to continue to heal on its own and to make changes. When she came in she was elated. No headaches at all for 3 weeks! She couldn’t remember the time when that last happened. Again, the appropriate meridians were selected. In this exchange, she had the insight to detach from the “habit” of this pain since it had been such a constant companion. The idea of being free of her headaches needed to be strengthened so that she would not unconsciously attract old blockages to herself out of habit and expectation. Again, her innate intelligence helped her to realize this as a real possibility.
6th treatment: 2 months later
Joanie has not had any bad migraines, but occasionally tension headaches. With her new awareness, it became obvious there was a correlation between her headaches whenever she overworked in a specific way. Therefore this time in the patient-practitioner exchange, she realized it was time for her to really make a decision to not put herself in harm’s way in doing her work, which she truly had always done from her heart in the name of service. Her patients are the terminally ill and require a lot from her, as can be expected. She would not want to do any other kind of work, as she feels it is her calling. However, her insight revealed that her deep compassion and kindness towards others were not balanced, since she did not extend that to herself. She always crossed the line where she would work and give until she could give no more. In fact, she would have to reach that place of discomfort before she would be satisfied that she had given enough. In this treatment, she made a vow to herself that would not cross that line of hurting herself in the name of service to others. And every time she keeps to that vow, the pain, in whatever form, would start to diminish or disappear.
7th treatment: 4 weeks later
Joanie came in quite pleased. She had only one headache in 1 month. The treatment was to balance several meridians to continue her progress. Her insight was to continue to strengthen this newfound belief to really know that it was not selfish to care for herself at the same time she cared for others. She mentioned that many things have been happening as she feels herself changing.
8th treatment: 4 weeks later
Joanie came in glowing and reported proudly that she had been standing up for herself. She was able to say “no” much more and she felt she had more respect from her supervisor as well as from her patients as a result of her own self respect. Headaches have been nonexistent. But what had been so amazing to her is that her insomnia was much improved. She was able to sleep deeply and felt more rested upon awakening. However, she still felt a bit groggy in the morning, as she still had been taking a sleeping medication and currently had been afraid to discontinue it. It did help in the very beginning but it was really not very effective any more. With her doctor, she has been slowly cutting down to a very low dosage over the past month. She feels confident that she will be off of everything very soon.
So even though the treatments did not focus on her other secondary complaint of insomnia, it also began to resolve. The body is whole, therefore you cannot get better in one area without getting better in another problem area. It has to be interconnected. This particular treatment helped Joanie to mentally become less dependent on the sleeping medication, as she was simply afraid to stop taking them since she had been taking them for a very long time. But it is always best to gradually taper off any medication and there is no need to force oneself to suffer. The body needs to adjust gradually. When she feels ready and with the support of her doctor who prescribed the medication, she will be able to be independent of the medication.
This case history is pretty typical. As you can see, there are very personal and specific belief systems formed from life events. These interpretations often influence ways of coping or reacting later in life. These are often unconscious and with the power of acupuncture, the energetic blockages formed from these interpretations can be re-examined.