Headache is a very common ailment. Associated with many illnesses, it occurs without specific cause as well. Most headaches arise in tissues outside the skull. Headache is only a symptom. It can occur with the common cold, flu, sinus trouble, toothache, allergies, hay fever and other nose and eye diseases, and menstrual irregularities, to name a few. There are several kinds of headache which can be classified according to location of pain and accompanying symptoms.

One type of headache is generally found in the front part of the forehead and is of an acute nature, that is, it comes on quickly and also occurs with other symptoms such as runny or stuffy nose and swollen eyes.

Another type of headache is migraine. Migraines arise from irregular changes (dilation and/or constriction) in blood vessels in the scalp, temple, and face. It is usually one-sided, sudden, and very intense. Many times visual disturbances such as blank spaces before the eyes and blurred vision are present. Dizziness, nausea, and other weakening symptoms can also be present.

A third type is the tension headache, which is caused by stress. It is often accompanied by stiffness throughout the body. It occurs in the temples or at the back of the head or neck.

Many simple home treatments are effective for headache. If you have time, a full body shiatsu treatment is helpful to relax and calm the receiver. The full treatment will also stimulate and balance all the internal organs and is effective for all three types of headaches.

As we work to alleviate the pain of headache, we must, at the same time, be attentive to the cause. Many times the source of pain can be traced back to diet. Expansive foods such as spices, coffee, sugar, chemicals in foods (e.g., monosodium glutamate or MSG), fruit juices, fruit, soft drinks, ice cream, and other junk foods can cause dilation in the blood vessels and therefore pain. Contractive foods such as beef and all red meats, eggs, cheese, chicken, too much fish and seafood, poor-quality salt, and snack foods can cause the blood vessels in the scalp, temple, and face to constrict, thereby creating pain in these areas. Many people with chronic headache eat a variety of both types of foods. A simple rule of thumb is: if you get a headache after eating expansive foods (yin), then apply a cold compress on the painful area (yang effect). If you get a headache after eating contractive foods (yang), then apply a hot compress (yin effect) where it hurts.

Headache Treatments

Palm Healing

Place one hand on the forehead and the other hand at the base of the neck. Ask the receiver to close their eyes. Have the receiver breathe in and out slowly and deeply. The giver breathes simultaneously in the same rhythm. Maintain this holding technique for several minutes.


You can gently pound the top of the head with your fist many times. Also pound at the hairline. This causes contraction and is effective for expansive headaches.


Tightly tie a scarf or headband around the head. This contracts the blood vessels in the head and is effective for an expansive headache.


Give head, shoulder, and upper-back shiatsu, and manipulate the part of the head where there is pain. First lightly pound the head with the fist. Always press the neck, shoulder, and especially the cervical region (that part of the spine below the head) down to the shoulders. One hand is placed on the forehead for stability and the other is placed directly on the neck. The thumb presses from below the ear to the shoulder. Repeat this several times. Do both sides of the neck by changing your body position and your hands.

With a strong grip. knead the shoulder muscles between your thumb and forefingers, pinching slightly. Then press with the thumbs across the top of the shoulders.

Other specific points for treatment depend on the location of the pain. In the case of front headache pain, press acupoints on the forehead. For pain around the eyes, press acupoints in that area. For temple pain, use the points in the temple beginning near the corner of the eye and moving back toward the ear. For back of the head pain, press firmly in that area.

With the thumb, press lightly over the entire head. Then press along the midline of the head, going from the front to the back, that is from the hair line toward the back. Especially press GV 20, the midpoint on the top of the head. Any sore or tender spots are to be pressed lightly at first, then with more pressure as the receiver can tolerate it. Go back and forth over the top of the head many times.

To heighten the effect of shiatsu, press the point in the hand (LI 4, located in the webbing between thumb and index finger) which affects any problem in the head. Strongly manipulate this point for 30 seconds, at least twice on both hands or until the headache subsides. Massage other acupoints on the arms and legs such as heart governor 6 (HG 6), Stomach 36 (ST 36), and Spleen 6 (SP 6).

Press the soles of the foot. Asian medicine recognizes a top/bottom relationship in the body. Pressure on the bottom affects the top. Press here for several minutes.

Foot Bath

A hot foot bath brings blood circulation down to the lower parts of the body, away from the head. Soak feet for up to twenty minutes.


When you feel a headache about to come on or a mild one is already present, go for a walk in the fresh air. The air and movement will increase body circulation and eases the tension brought on by headache. Walk for a minimum of five to ten minutes.


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