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Mindfulness for Migraines

Mindful meditation may prove a worthwhile do-it-yourself treatment for migraine headaches. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center recruited 19 adult migraine patients and assigned 10 of them to be taught mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) while the others received standard medical care. Those in the mindfulness group attended eight weekly classes to learn MBSR techniques and were asked to practice on their own for at least 45 minutes a day, for at least five days a week. Results showed that the mindfulness patients had fewer headaches than usual. In addition, the migraine episodes they did have were less severe and didn't last as long as they had in the past, or as long as the headaches experienced by those in the control group. Compared to the standard medical care group, the mindfulness patients had 1.4 fewer migraines per month. Because the study sample was relatively small, researchers will need to study the effect of MBSR on a larger group of patients in order to confirm its effectiveness. In the meantime, MBSR is worth a try. There are no side effects.

Zapping Away Migraines

A new device marketed for relieving migraine headaches and approved by the FDA could eliminate headache pain within two hours for some patients, but others may have to wait as long as an excruciating 24 hours, and many may not be helped at all. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t address the debilitating symptoms that often go along with migraines including nausea, sensitivity to light and sensitivity to sound, the FDA noted. The device provides transcranial magnetic stimulation. To deal with a headache, patients have to hold the device to the back of the head and push a button. This results in two magnetic pulses that last less than a millisecond each, 30 seconds apart. In a study of the effectiveness of the stimulator, 38 percent of patients reported relief within two hours, 34 percent were headache-free 24 hours later, and 28 percent were not helped at all. Of patients who received a sham device, 17 percent reported relief within two hours and 10 percent within 24 hours, the FDA said. The most common side effect of the new treatment is dizziness. Patients with metal implants or devices with magnetic components and those with epilepsy or a personal or family history of seizures should not use the device, the FDA warned.

My take? This new approach to treating migraines isn’t perfect, which is also true of the drugs available to relieve the headaches. Nothing works perfectly for all migraine patients. In addition to identifying and avoiding triggers for the headaches, I suggest eliminating caffeine from your diet so you can use coffee or other forms of caffeine as an effective and immediate migraine treatment. Drink one or two cups of strong coffee at the first sign of an attack, then lie down in a dark, quiet room. I also recommend considering preventive measures such as biofeedback; taking feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), 100-150 mg daily; coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10); 400 mg daily of riboflavin (the high dose needs to be prescribed by a physician); or the herb butterbur (50-100 mg twice daily with meals).

Source:
Richard B.  Lipton et al, “Single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation for acute treatment of migraine with aura: a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, sham-controlled trial,” The Lancet Neurology, doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(10)70054-5

How Often Do You Have Headaches? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the possible connection of obesity with migraine headaches: Does Obesity Cause Migraines? Check out the article and let us know how often you experience headaches!