Migraines can be tackled with Mindfulness

There might not be a cure for migraines, however recent studies show that mindfulness can ease the discomfort and reduce the symptoms of migraines; and it can even reduce headache frequency.

Globally around 30 percent of people suffer from headaches that can be described as unilateral throbbing pain accompanied with such symptoms as nausea, vomiting, and hypersensitivity to a variety of external stimuli, especially light and sound. Consider yourself more than lucky if you have never experienced this pain. Migraines in most cases occur without any specific symptoms or warning signs; triggers change from person to person and can even change during one’s lifetime. Women outpace men at 3:1 ratio in suffering from migraines, as UK National Health Services states migraine affects “around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men”.

The frequency of migraines varies from only a few times a year to few times a week, typically lasting from 4 hours to 72 hours. Headache disorders, including migraine, were even classified as a third cause of disability worldwide.

Unfortunately, there is not a cure for migraines, but there definitely are some ways to reduce the symptoms and frequency of migraines. Migraine management includes avoidance of trigger factors, lifestyle modifications, non-pharmacological therapies and medications. One of the non-pharmacological approaches for migraine management and treatment is, yes, you guessed it, mindfulness; a practice of being in the present moment while being aware of your surroundings, sensations, thoughts and feelings. As it is highlighted by research comparing mindfulness training with usual pharmacotherapy in individuals with migraines and tension headaches:

“According to the findings of this study it can be concluded that MBSR [Mindfulness-Based Stress reduction] methods generally are effective on perceived pain intensity and quality of life of patients with chronic headache.”

In addition, a recent research examining mindfulness training in patients with chronic migraine accompanied with medication overuse found that mindfulness based treatment reduces headache frequency and even the consumption of acute medications.

“Our results provide initial support for the beneficial effect of Mindfulness-based treatment in the management of chronic migraine that is accompanied with medication overuse, a headache form which represents a clinical challenge. Our results further suggest that a Mindfulness-based treatment may be comparable to standard pharmacological prophylaxis with regard to relevant primary outcomes such as headaches frequency reduction and reduction in the consumption of acute medications.”

Mindfulness as an approach to easing chronic pain and migraine discomfort is further discussed on Headspace (a digital health platform; which recently introduced a meditation pack for pain management). Although the mechanisms of how mindfulness exactly works to ease the discomfort of migraines are not clear yet, some of the suggested explanations are:

“that mindfulness helps reduce reactivity to distressing thoughts and feelings and changes the way people interpret and respond to pain, thus lessening the unpleasant experience. Another possible explanation is that mindfulness teaches pain acceptance, which in turn results in a reduction of perceived pain intensity.”

So next time when you notice that the throbbing pain is approaching, try some mindfulness meditation before that migraine gets to you.

Baiba Šustere

Baiba Šustere is a staff writer and wellness expert for My Good Planet. Specialising in mindfulness, health and wellbeing, Baiba's work has inspired and touched many of our readers over the course of her time with us. Her time studying to become a Yoga teacher in India gave her a unique perspective on life; one which she generously shares with us regularly.

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