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Natural Awakenings Austin

Using Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine to Treat Migraines

by Allison Yu

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, “Migraine is an extraordinarily prevalent neurological disease, affecting 39 million men, women and children in the U.S. and one billion worldwide.” The organization also reports that 18 percent of American women, 6 percent of men, and 10 percent of children experience migraines. Migraine tends to run in families. About 90 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraine. More than 90 percent of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their migraine, which means it is a chronic disease that significantly diminishes quality of life.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the most well known alternative methods to handle this painful condition. TCM includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui-Na massage and cupping.

Recently, more people have sought acupuncture for relief of chronic migraines. Most of these patients suffered with migraines for many years and tried traditional treatments, and many finally found promising results through TCM.

TCM uses the following three categories to determine types of migraine headaches:

  • Hypertension – symptoms include red eyes, dry mouth, thirst, insomnia and bad temper
  • Blood deficiency - patients may suffer dizziness and feel sleepy
  • Blood stasis - the tongue may show dark red or purple spots, and the patient feels easily fatigued

Using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to treat these different types of chronic migraines could get better results. Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into the skin at specific locations throughout the body. This may relieve the migraine headache by stimulating the body to release serotonin and norepinephrine in order to block the path for the pain, while at the same time stimulating the brain to release endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals. Acupuncture is often combined with a prescribed Chinese herbal formula, which targets different type of migraines or even more complicated conditions.

There are also some additional ways to relieve chronic migraines: adjust one’s lifestyle to stay relaxed, and try to acclimate to a regular sleep schedule. Try a bland diet; avoid food that is too salty. It’s also important to practice self-care, such as spending quality time with friends and family. These things, combined with TCM, can help one be free from the unbearable pain of the migraine headaches.

Allison Yu is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist at Austin Acupuncture Clinic. For more information, call 512-445-2222 or visit

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