Meditation for Migraines?

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. are reporting meditation may help with migraine relief.

“Stress is a well-known trigger for headaches and research supports the general benefits of mind/body interventions for migraines, but there hasn’t been much research to evaluate specific standardized meditation interventions,” said Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist and lead author of the study published in the online edition of the journal “Headache.”

The study assessed the safety, feasibility and effects of a standardized meditation and yoga practice known as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in adults with migraines. Using a group of 19 adults randomly assigned to two groups, and 10 received 8 weekly classes on MBSR training, and instructed to practice 45 minutes on their own at least five additional days per week, while the other nine received standard medical care.

Researchers evaluated participants before and after the trial period using objective measures of disability, self-efficacy and mindfulness, and also maintained headache logs throughout the trial to capture the frequency, severity and duration of their migraines.

“We found that the MBSR participants had trends of fewer migraines that were less severe,” Wells said. “Secondary effects included headaches that were shorter in duration and less disabling, and participants had increases in mindfulness and self-efficacy and a sense of personal control over their migraines. In addition, there were no adverse events and excellent adherence.”

Specifically, the MBSR participants had 1.4 fewer migraines per month that were less severe, and they were significantly shorter compared to the control group.

Future studies with larger sample sizes are planned to further evaluate the impact and mechanisms of this intervention in adults with migraines, Wells said.

“For the approximate 36 million Americans who suffer from migraines, there is big need for non-pharmaceutical treatment strategies, and doctors and patients should know that MBSR is a safe intervention that could potentially decrease the impact of migraines,” he said.

Mindfulness Meditation May Reduce Stress-Induced Inflammation, Study Shows

Those suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and asthma, where psychological stress plays an important role, may benefit from mindfulness-based stress reduction, a form of meditation, according to a study by University of Wisconsin-Madison neuroscientists with the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, reported.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, which is designed for patients with chronic pain, has practitioners continuously focus attention on the breath, body sensations and mental content, while either seated, walking or practicing yoga.

The study compared two methods of reducing stress: a mindfulness meditation-based approach, and a program designed to enhance health in ways unrelated to mindfulness.

The other group participated in the Health Enhancement Program, which included nutritional education; physical activity, such as walking; balance, agility and core strengthening; and music therapy, the article stated.

Both groups had the same amount of training, the same level of expertise in the instructors, and the same amount of home practice required by participants.

“In this setting, we could see if there were changes that we could detect that were specific to mindfulness,” Melissa Rosenkranz, assistant scientist at the center and lead author on the paper, which was published recently in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity said in the article.

Using a tool called the Trier Social Stress Test to induce psychological stress, and a capsaicin cream to produce inflammation on the skin, the researchers took immune and endocrine measures before and after training in the two methods. While both techniques were proven effective in reducing stress, the mindfulness-based stress reduction approach was more effective at reducing stress-induced inflammation.

The results show behavioral interventions designed to reduce emotional reactivity are beneficial to people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions. The study also suggests mindfulness techniques may be more effective in relieving inflammatory symptoms than other activities that promote well-being, the article stated.

“This is not a cure-all, but our study does show there are specific ways that mindfulness can be beneficial, and that there are specific people who may be more likely to benefit from this approach than other interventions,” Rosenkranz said in the report.

Time Magazine Interviews Jon Kabat-Zinn

He started meditating in 1966 at age 22, and founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center 35 years ago. Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the new book “Mindfulness for Beginners,” is also an MIT-trained molecular biologist. He recently talked to Time Magazine about meditation, its benefits and more.

“Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation,” Kabat-Zinn said in the article. “It’s not about Buddhism, but about paying attention. That’s what all meditation is, no matter what tradition or particular technique is used.”

He spoke about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and bringing the technique to medical patients in the form of an eight-week course.

“Recent studies from Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that eight weeks of MBSR can actually produce thickening in particular regions of the brain important for learning, memory, executive decision-making and perspective-taking: all important functions to have at optimal levels when you are under stress or experiencing pain,” Kabat-Zinn said in the article. “Also, certain regions get thinner like the amygdala, which involves threat and fear circuitry. If the amygdala is getting thinner after you’ve been practicing mindfulness for only eight weeks, I find that pretty amazing.”

For the full interview, visit Time Magazine.