Mindfulness Meditation May Decrease Impact of Migraine

Researchers leading a clinical trial at Wake Forest Baptist Health showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may provide benefit to people with migraines, the second leading cause of disability worldwide.

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a mind-body treatment that teaches moment-by-moment awareness through mindfulness meditation and yoga,” said Rebecca Erwin Wells, MD, MPH, associate professor of neurology and founder and director of the Comprehensive Headache Program at Wake Forest Baptist. “Mindfulness can also teach new ways to respond to stress, a commonly reported migraine trigger.”

A man and a woman stand at a whiteboard and look at the numbersAccording to an article published by JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers studied whether MBSR improved migraine outcomes, pain perception and measures of emotional well-being 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 groups reported fewer days with migraine. However, 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.

“At a time when opioids are still being used for migraine, finding safe non-drug options with long-term benefit has significant implications,” Wells said.