A Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine Clinic
TCM Solutions – Migraines
Treating Migraines with TCM and Acupuncture
Migraines are a specific type of headache that lasts 4-72 hours, is throbbing in nature and moderate
to severe in intensity, is one-sided, and is worse with exertion. Migraines may also be associated with
nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. In order to be diagnosed as suffering from
migraines, one only needs to experience 3-4 of these symptoms. Currently, it is estimated that more
than 24 million Americans and Canadian have migraines. They occur more in women than men and
mostly between 10-40 years of age. More than 50% of migraineurs have a family history of this
What causes them?
According to Western medicine, the cause of migraines is unknown and their mechanisms are poorly
understood. Triggers include cycling estrogen, insomnia, changers in barometric pressure, and
hunger. While there is a widespread belief that certain foods, such as chocolate, cheese, and red
wine, may trigger migraines, research has not confirmed this belief.
How does Chinese medicine see migraines?
In Chinese medicine, most migraines are due to an upward counterflow of qi into the head. This
upwardly counterflowing of qi is usually due to liver depression and its various complications. In
women, blood vacuity not nourishing the liver is often the cause or trigger of this upward counterflow.
As this yang qi ascends to fill up the bony box of the head, it may draft with it dampness, phlegm, and
turbidity. If this congestion recurs over a long period of time, it may also result in the formation of blood
stasis in the channels and network vessels of the head.
How does Chinese medicine treat migraines?
Because each patient presents with their own unique combination of Chinese medical disease
mechanisms, the first step in treating migraines with acupuncture and Chinese medicine is to do a
personalized pattern discrimination. It is professional pattern discrimination which allows the Chinese
medical practitioner to determine the exact right combination of therapies for each patient. This
combination of therapies may consist of diet and lifestyle modifications to treat the underlying root of
the condition. Acupuncture may be used either preventively or remedially during an acute attack. Often,
acupuncture can abort or decrease migraine pain within minutes of insertion of the needles. Chinese
herbal medicine may be administered. We have more than 20 special formulated herbal remedies for
different migraine conditions, instead of the old form of bulk herbs brewed and drunk as a ”tea”.
How do I know Chinese medicine works?
Several scores of research studies have been conducted in treatment of migraines. These studies
confirm that Chinese medicine, both acupuncture and Chinese herbs, are safe and effective for this
type of headache. The following are just a few examples of this voluminous research. Wang Xian-qi
and Sun Qing treated 52 cases of recalcitrant migraines with a Chinese herbal formula and
acupuncture. 36 cases were cured, and another 13 cases improved for a total amelioration rate of
94.2%. Huang Cheng-yun, writing in Heilongjiang Medicine, described his treatment of 36 cases of
migraine with another Chinese herbal formula and acupuncture. 24 of these cases were cured and the
other 12 all improved for a 100% effective rate. Bai Hui-min treated 65 cases migraine with
acupuncture (Tianjin College of Chinese Medicine Journal, #2, 1996). Twenty-two cases were cured,
29 cases got a marked effect, and 11 cases improved for a total amelioration rate of 95.3%.