Mindfulness and Migraine Pain Reduction

A study investigating mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has shown promising results when it comes to reducing the pain felt by migraine sufferers during an attack.

The study in question involved eighty-nine adults who had between four and twenty migraine days per month, and who experienced high disability as a result. Of the eighty-nine patients, forty-five were placed in the MSBR group, and forty-four in a group which received headache education. Each group had weekly sessions lasting two hours for a period of eight weeks, and the MSBR group were also given activities to do at home.

The headache education group were given instruction on headaches, pathophysiology (the functional changes which accompany headaches), headache triggers, stress, and treatment approaches. The MBSR group undertook, in addition to the two hour sessions, meditation and yoga, including accompanying audio tracks, to practise at home for thirty minutes each day. Patients were followed up with throughout a thirty-six week period.

Both groups had fewer migraine days per month following their weekly sessions, with the MBSR group experiencing 1.6 fewer migraine days per month, and the headache education group experiencing 2 fewer migraine days per month, so not much to choose between the two groups. However, a secondary finding was that the perception of pain was noticeably different for the MBSR group.

At the final thirty-six week assessment, the patients in the MSBR group reported greater decreases in baseline pain unpleasantness and intensity. They also reported improved quality of life, self-efficacy, less depression, and less disability at this assessment. The MBSR group had a 36.3% decrease in pain intensity and a 30.4% reduction in unpleasantness. The headache education group had a 13.5% increase in intensity, and an 11.2% increase in unpleasantness.

A larger study is needed in order to further investigate these results, but the authors suggest that MBSR may help to reduce the overall burden of migraines.

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