Mindfulness physical therapy, pain management, rehabilitation

Mindfulness and Chronic Migraine

In a study by Andrsik and colleagues, patients with a history of migraine headache for at least 10 years and overuse of triptans and NSAIDS for at least 5 years underwent a structured medication withdrawal program and were encouraged to exercise, maintain adequate hydration and eat 3 meals a day.1 Once medication withdrawal was completed, participants were permitted to choose to receive appropriate prophylactic medication (PM)(N=22) or mindfulness meditation training (MT) (N=22). Mindfulness meditation training was delivered in small groups for 30 minutes weekly for 6 sessions. Participants practiced mindfulness meditation during these sessions and were encouraged to practice at home 7 minutes daily.

Comparing pre-treatment to 6-month follow-up, both groups demonstrated similar overall reductions in migraine frequency (44% for MT and 43% for PM). When identifying the percentage of participants with significant clinical improvement, defined as a migraine frequency reduction > 50%, the MT group showed greater improvement (48%) compared to the PM group (30%). The MT group also showed greater reductions in consumption of acute medications compared with the PM group (49% for MT and 37% for PM).

The results of this study are promising and additional research with larger sample sizes and longer follow-up is needed. This study design employed a brief mindfulness meditation model that included a home program of only 7 minutes of daily meditation. When my patients say they are too busy to practice 20 or 30 minutes of mindfulness meditation, I suggest the 10 minute recordings at my website and explain that benefits have been demonstrated with even brief periods of practice. Most people can find 10 minutes in their day.

1 Andrasik F, Grazzi L, D’Amico D, et al. Mindfulness and headache: a “new” old treatment, with new findings. Cephalgia. 2016 Sep 30. pii: 0333102416667023. [Epub ahead of print] Review.