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Migraine headaches are characterised by throbbing, often severe pain, usually on one side of the head. It may also be accompanied by visual disturbance and/or nausea and vomiting. Attacks may last from a few hours to several days.

Migraines affect about one in ten of all the population, about 70% of all migraine sufferers are women. It is believed that changing hormone levels during menstruation, ovulation and menopause may trigger attacks.
The headache pain is thought to be caused by a spasm which occurs in the blood vessels if the brain. These blood vessels first contract and then expand resulting in throbbing pain.
Certain types of food may also trigger migraine-such as overripe cheese, citrus fruits, chocolate, red wine, coffee, red meat, etc. The pill can also provoke migraine in susceptible women.
In terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) there are different types of migraine. External wind-cold or wind-heat both cause headaches but are not classified as migraine. Its primary pathogenic changes are mainly due to the following four types:-

1. Rising Liver Yang

Due to stress, emotional problems, Liver Qi stagnation, or kidney yin deficiency, causing Liver Yang to disturb the head. Symptoms include: migraine, blurring of the vision which is made worse when stressed, also the sufferer may experience hot flushes, thirst, red tongue and a taut pulse. This type is often seen in high blood pressure sufferers.
Treatment: Calms the Liver and suppress Yang.
Prescription: Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin Tian Ma, Gou Teng, Shi Ju Ming, Shang Yao, Huang Qin, Chuan Niu Xi, Du Zhing, Yi Mu Cao, Sang Ji Sheng, Ye Jiao Teng, Fu Shen.

2. Blood Deficiency

Blood Deficiency is caused by
failure of the blood to nourish the head correctly.
Symptoms: Headache, dizziness, palpitations, often worse in the afternoon, tiredness, pale complexion, associated with a heavy period, or in women who have had many children. Also pale tongue and thread pulse, often seen in people who are anaemic.
Treatment: Tonify the Yin Blood
Prescription: Gui Pi Tang Bai Zhu, Fu Shen, Mu Xiang, Zhi Gan Cao, Dang Gui, Yuan Zhi.

3. Damp – Phlegm Type

Damp Phlegm clogs the head.
Symptoms: Migraine pain in a fixed place or needle like prickling pain. This may occur if the patient has a history of external injury. Also associated with purple tongue, thread pulse, often seen in head injury victims and may include a stubborn headache
Treatment: Disperse blood stasis and dredge collateral.
Prescription: Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang Dang Gui, Chuan Xiong, Chi Shao, Tao Ren, Hong Hua, Niu Xi, Chai Hu, Jie Geng, Zhi Ke, Sheng Di Huang, Gan Cao.
Acupuncture is also an effective treatment for migraine, most cases are relieved during or immediately after acupuncture. The selection of acupuncture point will depend on the different type of migraine.
For mild migraine or severe migraine stabilised, there are herbal patent medicines which help to prevent the attack with the additional bonus of improving general health. Essential balm (Feng You Jing) a special Chinese herbal oil with cool properties can be used externally to relieve the attack.
For Heat-Type-Migraine headaches with burning sensation, Feng Shi You, another Chinese herbal oil with warm properties, can be used externally for damp – cold type migraines.

Case History

A Shop owner, suffered from migraines since 1995. The patient had 1 to 14 attacks each month, lasting up to 3 days. She first came to visit me in March 1998. At that time she was having 14 migraines a month, with the pain on the front, back and top of the head and a hot feeling with the pain. She also had hot flushes, felt lethargic, constipated and her tongue was red with a little coating on it. This was the raising Liver Yang type of migraine. I gave her acupuncture, using the points Tai Yang, Yang Bai, Qu Chi, He Gu, Lie Que and San Yin Jiao, five days of herbal medication and one week of herbal patent Qi Ju Di Huang Wan.
Only two weeks later she felt a lot better with just mild headaches, after another two weeks the migraine had receded even more and the patient had more energy. Although she admitted she disliked the taste of the herbal tea after another treatment things improved again.
By her third visit the patient had not had any bad attacks for two weeks. She now has follow up sessions once a month to prevent further attacks.
The corollary is that the migraines have now ceased but in general TCM has resulted in the patient having overall better health and feeling more relaxed and less stressed.