Mindfulness meditation can reduce the impact of migraine headaches

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A study by American researchers explored the possibility that mindfulness meditation may help reduce the effects of migraine headaches in people who suffer from it frequently, thus improving long-term quality of life.

Now the subject of numerous scientific studies, meditation appears to be an effective remedy for dealing with stressful situations or even sleeping problems. One of the best known practices, the so-called "mindfulness" meditation involves focusing on your breathing, your emotions, your thoughts, or even the perception of physical sensations in your body.

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center wanted to know if it could help people with frequent migraines get rid of them. Specifically, they wanted to know if mindfulness-based stress reduction can be beneficial for those who suffer from it.

Migraine is a chronic disease characterized by recurrent attacks that mainly result in severe headaches, sometimes accompanied by nausea or intolerance to noise or light. In some people, the seizure is preceded by signs called "aura." It has a strong impact on the quality of life due to its impact on emotional relationships and professional activities, especially since an effective long-term curative treatment has not yet been commercialized. Its management is based on the treatment of attacks (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and, in certain migraineurs, on a basic preventive treatment that must be taken daily.

"A mind-body treatment"

But many migraine patients discontinue medications due to ineffectiveness or side effects, while some use opioid pain relievers despite the risk of overuse. Therefore, a sustainable alternative would be welcome. "Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a mind-body treatment that teaches moment-to-moment awareness through mindful meditation," said Professor Rebecca Erwin Wells, who led the study. "Mindfulness can also teach new ways to respond to stress, a commonly reported migraine trigger."

According to the study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers studied whether mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) made it possible to reduce the number of days with migraines but also the perception of pain and emotional well-being. The researchers randomized 89 adults with a history of migraine (between 4 and 20 migraine days per month) to the "MBSR" group or the "migraine information" group, a training that is delivered in eight weekly sessions of two hours: triggers and symptoms, how to calm a migraine and when to consult, available treatments.

Less pain and better emotional well-being

The "MBSR" group completed a mindfulness yoga and meditation program. Participants also received electronic audio files for home practice and were encouraged to conduct daily 30-minute sessions at home. At the end of the trial period, participants in both groups reported a reduction in the number of migraine days, but those in the "MBSR" group reported better scores for quality of life and emotional well-being with effects seen for up to 36 weeks. Furthermore, pain intensity and induced discomfort decreased in this group, suggesting a change in pain assessment.

"In an age when opioids are still used for migraines, finding safe non-drug options with long-term benefits has significant implications," adds Professor Rebecca Erwin Wells. "Mindfulness could potentially lessen its impact." However, the researchers conclude that a larger study is needed to confirm these results.

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