Mindfulness meditation may reduce effects of migraine

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Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may provide benefit to people with migraine, according to a recent clinical trial from Wake Forest Baptist Health published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

For the study, researchers studied whether MBSR improved migraine outcomes, pain perception, and measures of emotional wellbeing compared to headache education. In the study, 89 adults with a history of migraine were randomly assigned to either the MBSR group or headache education group with training or instruction delivered in eight weekly two-hour sessions.

The MBSR 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 MBSR and headache education groups reported fewer days with migraine. However, only MBSR 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, experimentally induced pain intensity and unpleasantness decreased in the MBSR group compared to the headache education group, suggesting a shift in pain appraisal, the researchers said.

"At a time when opioids are still being used for migraine, finding safe non-drug options with long-term benefit has significant implications," said Rebecca Erwin Wells, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, in a statement. "Mindfulness may treat the total burden of migraine and could potentially decrease the impact of this debilitating condition. A larger, more definitive study is needed to confirm these findings."