A migraine is a neurovascular condition that is described as a debilitating and recurring headache. It is often accompanied by vomiting and some sensory sensitivities.
It has been reported that 20% of the people who have migraines turn to prescription medication for relief which is not always effective in all cases. Considering this and wider concerns surrounding the overuse of medication, there is a need for research into alternative treatments for this condition.
Meditation has been used in other circumstances as a way of managing pain. Although systematic research in this area is still limited some studies have indicated that meditation may have the potential to be used as a complementary treatment for migraines.
What is meditation?
Meditation is the practice of focusing one’s attention on the present moment. The goal is to consider the current state of one’s mind and body and focus on the sensations that one experiences instead of thinking.
Along a wide range of non-pharmacological treatments meditation has become part of the rehabilitation of chronic pain conditions. The success of meditation in the treatment of pain conditions has spurred researchers’ interest in the field of chronic headache as an alternative approach to patient care. This approach aims to increase the awareness of the patient of their pain and help them manage their headache before resorting to formal medication.
Mindfulness meditation and reduction of pain intensity
A study conducted by Bakhshani and colleagues aimed to determine the effectiveness of Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on perceived pain intensity and quality of life of patients suffering from chronic headaches. Forty patients diagnosed with migraine or chronic headache took part in the study and were randomly assigned to a control and an intervention group. The intervention included an 8-week MBSR program comprised of a daily home practice session of 90 minutes. Results from this study showed an improvement in the quality of life of patients measured with the Pain and Quality of life questionnaire. In addition to that, patients in the intervention group reported reduced perceived pain ratings. The findings from this research demonstrate the effectiveness of MBSR as a non-pharmacological intervention and strategy to cope with pain in patients suffering from chronic headaches and migraines.