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Mind-Body Therapies for Migraine Sufferers

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Mind-body therapies you might not be taking advantage of.

If you get migraines, you have probably tried everything to get rid of them, from over-the-counter pain relievers, to caffeine, to prescription drugs and acupuncture. But a new study suggests that many migraine sufferers aren’t taking advantage of several mind-body methods that could help them. The mind-body therapies include cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches people how their thoughts affect their perceptions of pain; biofeedback, which uses sensors to teach people how to relax certain muscles; and relaxation techniques such as meditation and progressive muscle relaxation.

The study, which appeared in the journal Pain Medicine, found that only half of patients who had been referred by their headache doctor for behavioral therapy went on to schedule a first appointment. Researchers surveyed 230 patients and found that the reason people tend not to make the initial appointment after being referred is “lack of time,” including a reluctance to take off time from work or take time away from family. Another hurdle was the effort required to obtain coverage for the sessions from their health insurance companies. Concerns over costs, and overall skepticism on whether the mind-body therapies were worth pursuing, also added to the list of reasons patients neglected to follow through on an appointment.

However, the study’s lead author, neurologist Dr. Mia Minen, the director of headache research at NYU Langone Health in New York City, notes there is good evidence that mind-body treatments can actually help migraine sufferers and are well worth the time. She wrote that these methods can reduce the number of headache days by up to 50 percent. Considering that these drug-free methods have no side effects, don’t interact with other medications and are safe during pregnancy, they are worth pursuing. They are safe, cost-effective and long lasting, Minen reports.

If you’ve been putting off making that call for a follow up on a mind-body therapy for your migraines, go for it. If your headache specialist hasn’t brought up some of these methods, ask about them.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Savannah. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!.


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