top of page

What is a migraine?

          A migraine is very similar to a headache, but there tends to be a severe throbbing or pulse-like sensation on one side of the head. A migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated. Unfortunately, migraine tends to go undiagnosed and untreated, but if you or a loved one are experiencing it often, it may be essential to have someone check it out (Mayo Clinic, 2021). 

How does it happen?

          There is no pinpointed reason as to why migraines happen. According to many sources, the cause still needs to be discovered. Migraines are thought to result from abnormal brain activities that somewhat affect the brain's nerve signals, chemicals, and blood vessels (NHS, 2019). However, according to the same article by the NHS, it is not clear what causes these abnormalities in brain activity. Still, someone's genes may make them more likely to experience migraines due to a specific trigger. 

What are the symptoms of migraine? 

          Migraines can be different for everyone, and symptoms may vary as well. There are typically four stages associated with migraines: prodrome, aura, attack, and post-drome (Mayo Clinic, 2021). Prodrome refers to the days before your migraine, where someone may experience symptoms of constipation, mood changes, neck stiffness, and frequent yawning. Aura is a reversible nervous system symptom that can happen before or during a migraine. Migraine auras can cause vision loss, pins & needles sensation in arms, weakness of one side of the body, and difficulty speaking. The attack is when your migraine is happening, and you are experiencing symptoms of throbbing or pulse-like pain on one side of your head, sensitivity to light or sounds, and nausea or vomiting. The postdrome is when you feel like your migraine drains energy, so be careful not to make sudden head movements (Mayo Clinic, 2021).  

What are the causes of migraine in Oriental Medicine? 

          The Qi and blood of the five Zang-organs (viscera) and six Fu-organs (bowels) all ascend to the head. The three Hand Yang meridians, the three Foot Yang meridians, and the Liver meridian also meet at the head. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)/OM theory differentiates migraine as an external invasion or an internal disruption. Stagnation of Qi and blood is often present with migraine (Payant, 2014). Excess migraine types, typically short in duration, are caused by external pathogens such as wind, cold, dampness, or heat. The wind is the most common external pathegon (Payant, 2014). 

What can Oriental Medicine do to treat migraine?

          According to the American Migraine Foundation, acupuncture is one of the most effective TCM/OM modalities in aiding migraine relief. It stated that in a systematic review of 22 clinical trials, as much as 59% of participants had relief after getting acupuncture treatment (AMF, 2020). An acupuncturist will place needles in various acupressure points, including but not limited to those on the head and neck. The needle stimulation naturally releases endorphins and other hormones, stimulating the circulatory system, which helps weaken headache pain. It recommends a patient participate in 2-3 weekly acupuncture sessions for 3-4 weeks to maximize their results(Dower, 2022).  

          Another effective TCM/OM modality that can help with migraines is traditional Chinese herbs. One classic herbal formula is Chuan Xiong Wan (Ligusticum Teapills), a well-known pain reliever, especially for migraines and headaches. In addition, White Flower Oil and Po Sum On Medicated Oil also help relieve migraines and headaches caused by irritability and stress (Kaitlan Downes, 2022).  

          In addition, lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, can help with migraines and headaches. Maintaining a nutritious diet is essential to ensure your body is functioning properly. Avoid foods with added nitrates for MSG; instead, consume foods high in magnesium, such as seeds, nuts, and eggs. Essential oils and breathing techniques have also been shown improvements in stress and irritability, which can help reduce the amount of migraine a person experiences (Cai, 2022). Exercise can also be very beneficial in reducing stress because endorphins (the body's natural painkillers) are released no matter what activities you are partaking in. In addition, exercise can help with anxiety and depression-driven migraines and headaches because the chance of overwhelming oneself is reduced (Lindberg, 2021).  

          Acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbs, and lifestyle changes can all help those with migraines who would prefer a road to recovery without taking multiple medications for relief.

          At Rapha Acupuncture in Newport Beach, we are a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) clinic specializing in mean and women’s health and can help you design the best treatment plan for migraines. By using traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) modalities customized to your symptoms, including acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs, Rapha Acupuncture provides a natural and holistic solution for any kind of migraine. Give us a call today!

recent posts...




American Migraine Foundation. (2020, September 21). Acupuncture and migraine.  

Cai, X. (2022, July 15). How to treat migraine with TCM and acupuncture. Art of wellness acupuncture & traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).  

Dower, N. (2022, August 10). Acupuncture can help headache and migraine pain. Lancaster General


Kaitlan Downes. (2022, June 9). Herbal Hacks for headaches & migraines. Best Chinese Medicines.


Lindberg, S. (2021, October 13). Does exercise help migraine relief? What research shows. Healthline.


Mayo Clinic. (2021, July 2). Migraine. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.  

NHS. (2019, May 10). Migraines.  

Payant, M.-J. (2014, January). A single case study: Treating migraine headache with acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and diet. Global advances in health and medicine.  

bottom of page