How Mindfulness Meditation Can Be Beneficial For Migraines
Traditionally the first-line of defense for headaches and migraines is painkillers or prescribed medication.
Despite this only around half of migraine sufferers have been shown to meaningfully benefit from medication, with a further 10% suffering adverse events.
We have already discussed how mindfulness meditation may offer hope for people with heart disease.
Given this researchers from the Wake Forest School of Medicine examined the usefulness of an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course for adults with migraines. (Wells et al., 2014)
we conducted a randomized controlled study with the objective of assessing the safety, feasibility, and effect of MBSR in migraineurs vs usual care
The researchers made several predictions about how effective the mindfulness course would be:
(1) MBSR is feasible and safe in migraineurs
(2) MBSR will decrease migraine frequency, severity, and duration
(3) the MBSR group will demonstrate trends toward improved quality of life and self-efficacy and less depression, anxiety, and migraine-related disability.
As many studies considering a mindfulness intervention do, the study followed the structured MBSR protocol created by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.
While ‘mindfulness’ can be a difficult concept to understand it can be summarised as follows:
Mindfulness, defined as non-judgmental moment-to-moment awareness, was cultivated through mindful eating, mindful breathing with sitting and walking meditation, body scan (sequential mindful attention to different body parts) and mindful movement (yoga).
After the data from this small pilot study was analysed the researchers found some interesting results.
the standardized intervention of MBSR is safe, feasible, and can be done concurrently with pharmacological treatment
While the researchers were not able to show that the mindfulness course provided significant change for migraine frequency and severity they were able to demonstrate it was beneficial for headache duration, disability, self-efficacy and mindfulness.
That is to say that after the mindfulness meditation intervention people reported that their headaches lasted for a shorter period of time, did not disable them to carry on with everyday life as much, felt they could had more control over their headaches and increased in the state of mindfulness.
The authors concluded that further studies would be needed with a larger sample size in order to further evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention.