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.