Mindfulness meditation may decrease migraine headache

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Migraine is a neurological disease that can be severely debilitating and is the second leading cause of disability worldwide.

Unfortunately, many patients with migraine discontinue medications due to ineffectiveness or side effects.

Many patients still use opioids despite recommendations against them for headache treatment.

In a new study, researchers found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may provide benefits to people with migraines.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a mind-body treatment that teaches moment-by-moment awareness through mindfulness meditation and yoga.

Mindfulness can also teach new ways to respond to stress, a commonly reported migraine trigger.

The research was conducted by a team from Wake Forest Baptist Health.

In the study, 89 adults with a history of migraine were assigned to either the meditation group or headache education group with training or instruction delivered in eight weekly two-hour sessions.

The meditation group followed a standardized curriculum of mindfulness meditation and yoga. Participants also received electronic audio files for home practice and were encouraged to practice at home 30 minutes a day.

The headache education group received instruction on headaches, pathophysiology, triggers, stress, and treatment approaches.

Participants in both the meditation and headache education groups reported fewer days with migraines.

However, only meditation also lessened disability and improved quality of life, depression scores, and other measures reflecting emotional well-being, with effects seen out to 36 weeks.

Further, pain intensity and unpleasantness decreased in the meditation group compared to the headache education group, suggesting a shift in pain appraisal.

The team says at a time when opioids are still being used for migraine, finding safe non-drug options with long-term benefit has big implications.

Mindfulness may treat the total burden of migraine and could potentially decrease the impact of this debilitating condition.

One author of the study is Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of neurology.

The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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