Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Reduces Migraine-Related Disability

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Pain

In a study (NCT02443519) presented today at the American Headache Society (AHS) 61st Annual Scientific Meeting, it was shown that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) reduced perceived migraine-related disability. In other words, people with migraine who used mindfulness based cognitive therapy felt better even though the severity and frequency of migraine was not decreased with this treatment. These results are important because despite improved treatments for people with migraine, there are few treatments that completely eliminate all migraine, making additional ways to manage migraines of great importance to people with migraine. 

This effect was highest in the individuals with episodic headache and significantly better than for other treatment groups (P = .013). Of those with episodic headache who received MBCT-M, 40.0% moved from severe disability to mild/moderate disability on the Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) questionnaire. In contrast, 14.3% of people with episodic migraine on a waitlist receiving standard care had this change in disability status. For individuals with chronic migraine, 16.4% of those receiving MBCT-M had reduced disability and 8.7% of those on the waitlist had increased disability. On average, individuals with episodic migraine receiving MBCT-M also had a 14.4 point decrease in disability on the 100 point HDI compared to the .02 point decrease in the waitlist group (P = .001). 

This was a pilot study in which people experienced in delivering MBCT for pain evaluated mindfulness strategies adapted specifically for migraine treatment (MBCT-M). Participants in the study were randomly assigned to receive 8 sessions of MBCT-M in addition to their standard treatment or to continue with their standard treatment while being on a waiting list for MBCT-M. All participants had at least 6 migraine days/month, and 51% of participants had 15 or more migraine days per month. Individuals with continuous migraine were not included in the study.

Lead study author and inaugural recipient of the AHS’ Early Career Lecture Award, Elizabeth Seng, PhD associate professor, Ferkauf Graduate School ofPsychology, Yeshiva University and Research Associate Professor, Department of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine said, “People with migraine can experience some level of migraine activity, despite using effective treatments, and they can also use mindfulness to make that remaining activity interfere less with their lives. Using MBCT as an adjunct to effective treatments for episodic or chronic migraine may be a tool to help people with migraine improve their overall quality of life and improve their overall health as well.”

“We know migraine has an impact on everyday life beyond the pain associated with migraine itself. People with migraine often hold back from attending social functions and traveling when the onset of migraine is beginning, or feel frustrated, angry and isolated. These study results can help healthcare providers and patients as they evaluate additional, non-traditional treatment options for migraine,” said American Headache Society President Kathleen Digre.

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