Headaches are a common concern in my practice and represent a condition that affects nearly everyone at some point or another. Headaches can sometimes be a challenge to work with because there can be many different triggers - dehydration, stress, food sensitivities, low blood sugar, medication (did you know that nitroglycerin, used for angina, will always cause a severe headache?). And with some types of headaches like cluster headaches, the jury is still out to lunch about the cause (although there are higher rates amoung smokers).
Menstrual cramps, on the other, are a familiar problem for many women. Some parts of the world even offer a regular menstruation holiday for women whose menstrual cycles cause enough pain that it disrupts their ability to work productively and efficiently. Interesting thought.
Right between your thumb and index finger, on the back of either hand, you have a very powerful point for controlling pain in the whole body but especially the head and neck, and menstrual cramps. This point is called Hegu or Large Intestine 4, and in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is considered to be the command point for the head and neck as well as the Yuan Source point - making it one of the safest, and effective go-to's for pain relief.
The point is often needled during acupuncture treatments for dizziness, congestion, pain and swelling of the head (including headaches and migraines), toothache, facial paralysis. It also exerts a whole body influence on pain control, abdominal pain, constipation, and dysentery. Because of its influence on the abdomen, it is very useful for dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps), amenorrhea (absence of periods) and inducing labour.
At home you can apply moderate pressure to this point on either hand for 30 seconds at a time while focusing on taking slow deep breaths in and out. Try it for yourself!
Note, women that are pregnant should not use this point as it is thought to stimulate uterine contractions. If headaches or menstrual cramps are a persistent problem for you, consider seeking care from a health care provider such as a Naturopathic Doctor (me!) to provide more insight why. Neither of these conditions, although incredibly common, need to be tolerated on a regular basis and can definitely cause some quality of life issues. You are better off to learn the cause and then treat appropriately =).
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Dr. Keila Roesner is a Naturopathic Doctor. When not treating patients she is also an enthusiastic barefoot-strolling, music-loving, yoga-doing kitchen wiz - who also happens to be a wrestling fan.