Mindfulness Meditation for Migraine Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Rebecca Erwin Wells, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Department of Neurology
UCNS Certified Headache Specialist
Founder and Director of the Comprehensive Headache Program at Wake Forest Baptist
Wake Forest School of Medicine

PainRelief.com: What is the background for this study?

  • Migraine is the second leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • Many patients with migraine stop medications because of side effects or ineffectiveness.
  • Many patients with migraine still use opioids despite recommendations against them for headache treatment. 
  • Mindfulness is helpful for many clinical pain conditions.
  • We conducted a pilot study of mindfulness for migraine that demonstrated benefit, so we conducted this larger randomized controlled trial to understand further potential benefit.

PainRelief.com: What are the main findings?

  • Both Mindfulness Meditation and Headache Education decreased migraine frequency.
  • However, only MBSR also lessened disability and improved quality of life, depression scores, and measures of emotional well-being, with effects seen out to 36 weeks.
  • Further, experimentally induced pain intensity and unpleasantness decreased in the MBSR group compared to the headache education group, suggesting a shift in pain appraisal.

    PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?
  • Migraine is severely debilitating and the second leading cause of disability worldwide. It is NOT “all in the head” and is #NotJustAHeadache. 
  • Recognizing and treating the full impact that migraine has on a person’s life is critical, and a multi-modal treatment approach may help.
  • Mindfulness may be an additional tool that may help treat the total burden of migraine.
  • At a time when opioids are still being used against recommendations for migraine treatment, finding safe non-drug options with long-term benefit has significant implications.

    PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

    Response: A larger, more definitive study is needed to confirm these findings and further understand the mechanisms of improvement.

    No conflicts; no financial ties to companies

    Citation:
    Wells RE, O’Connell N, Pierce CR, et al. Effectiveness of Mindfulness Meditation vs Headache Education for Adults With Migraine: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Intern Med. Published online December 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.7090

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