How could mindfulness techniques aid in the treatment of migraines?
Migraine is a prevalent and disabling type of headache. Migraine headaches are typically experienced by adults between the ages of 18 and 44, during their most productive years. Numerous commonly prescribed drugs for migraine may induce intolerable adverse effects, which may drive people to quit taking their prescriptions as prescribed or completely. According to a recent study, up to 20% of migraine patients had used opioids to relieve their pain in the last year. As a result, there is an urgent need for more effective and acceptable migraine treatments.
Combining behavioral and preventative medicine therapies has been demonstrated to be more effective at preventing headaches than drugs alone. Additionally, mindfulness practice has been linked to improvements in patients suffering from chronic pain, including migraine. Mindfulness is a form of mind-body therapy that entails deliberately focusing one's attention on the present transient awareness and accepting it without judgment.
Stress is a well-known migraine trigger. Additionally, stressful events have been linked to people experiencing migraines on a more frequent or chronic basis, as opposed to having them occasionally. Mindfulness can result in less stress, a diminished emotional response to stress, and an overall increase in happiness. This medication can be used to alleviate the severity of pain and unpleasant symptoms in migraine patients.
Mindfulness can improve emotional and cognitive pain regulation by training migraine sufferers to reassess their pain in a nonjudgmental manner and adjust their pain evaluation. Additionally, mindfulness activities can aid in the management of depression, anxiety, and pain catastrophizing (an exaggerated negative emotion associated with painful situations), all of which may contribute to chronic migraine.
A recent study published in JAMA examined whether mindfulness-based stress reduction could benefit those who suffer from migraine. Half of the participants with migraine were randomly allocated to receive mindfulness treatment, while the other half received merely headache education.
The mindfulness-based stress reduction treatment consisted of eight weeks of two-hour in-person classes that included sitting and walking meditation, body scanning (sequential attention to different parts of the body), and mindful movement (bodily awareness during gentle stretching with hatha yoga), all of which aimed to redirect attention to the natural rhythm of the breath. Additionally, participants were encouraged to develop their capacity for addressing bodily and mental impressions of their pain, and audio files for at-home practice were practiced.
The headache education treatment consisted of an eight-week standardized protocol of two-hour in-person workshops that educated participants about the biological, psychological, and environmental processes underlying migraines, headache triggers, and stress. Throughout each lesson, patients were also given time for questions, responses, and discussion.
The researchers demonstrated that when patients received simply headache education, mindfulness-based stress reduction treatment significantly improved their disability, quality of life, self-efficacy, pain catastrophizing, and sadness. Monthly migraine days decreased considerably in those getting mindfulness-based stress reduction treatment but did not differ significantly from those receiving headache education. The authors note that the reason they were unable to establish a change in headache frequency could be because they used an active control group, such as headache education, which may result in headache frequency improvement.
Most importantly, the study established that mindfulness-based treatments can help alleviate the pain associated with migraine. The study's participants may have developed a new method of processing pain as a result of mindfulness, which may have a significant effect on their long-term health. The findings of this study have significant consequences for both patients and physicians, and they support a comprehensive, integrated therapy approach for migraine patients, with a lesser emphasis on nonmedical treatments.
What can you do?
Numerous healthcare professionals, including headache specialists, pain specialists, neurologists, and general care physicians, have begun to include mindfulness-based treatment into their practices or have referred their patients to mindfulness-based programs or specialists.
Additionally, there are numerous ways for migraine patients to practice mindfulness at home. Patients suffering from migraine can incorporate some of the mindfulness-based techniques listed below into their daily lives, including during a migraine headache:
Accept yourself, your current state of being.
Lay on your back or in a comfortable posture free of distractions and focus your attention on your body and breathing. Scan your body and take note of your feet, legs, hands, arms, and other body parts.
Try to find a peaceful and comfortable location to sit, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Attempt to perform breathing exercises while paying attention to the sensations of your breath as you inhale and exhale.
Outside in nature, sitting or walking meditation can be extremely soothing. Concentrate on the walking experience, paying attention to the feelings of standing and the small motions that maintain your equilibrium.