Treatment Experiences: Tiger Balm

As you can imagine, I’ve experimented with lots of typical and off-the-beaten-path treatments for my migraine disease since I started getting attacks when I was in middle school. Some have been total wastes of money; others I may not have tried long enough or consistently enough to really judge their merits.

One source of relief has been a steady player in my life since freshman year of college (1998), when my roommate P. let me try using some of her tiger balm on some sore muscles. Wowie.

Granted, tiger balm will not rid you of a migraine attack, nor has its benefits (or lack thereof) been tested in a key number of scientific, peer-reviewed studies. But, at least for me, it offers some relief during particularly bad headaches that are a part of my migraine disease.

My tiger balm jar is small—it can fit in my pocket (though somewhat uncomfortably), but usually it lives in my bedside drawer alongside my rarely-used sleep mask and my rarely-taken sleep aid pills (reserved for nights when my neighbors are partying and I need a solid 8+ hours). When I lie in bed suffering from migraine pain, I rub my finger in the jar and then put the ointment on my temples. Tiger balm is cooling and, at the very least, provides a sensation on the head that is markedly different from the migraine head pain. At minimum, it distracts me from the pain; at most, it provides tangible relief as I find myself breathing easier and able to move my focus away from the discomfort in my brain.

Have you ever used tiger balm on sore muscles or on your head and neck during a migraine episode? What have you discovered about its usefulness (or lack thereof)?

The purpose of the Treatment Series is to share personal experiences with migraine management techniques. Do not start, stop or change any treatment program without the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. For clinical data and safety information, please visit our Migraine Treatment pages.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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