Dr. Wells conducted this pilot trial when she was on faculty at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
Meditation for Migraines: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial
Version of Record online: 18 JUL 2014
© 2014 American Headache Society
Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain
Volume 54, Issue 9, pages 1484–1495, October 2014
How to Cite
Wells, R. E., Burch, R., Paulsen, R. H., Wayne, P. M., Houle, T. T. and Loder, E. (2014), Meditation for Migraines: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 54: 1484–1495. doi: 10.1111/head.12420
Conflict of Interest: Timothy T. Houle: Dr. Houle receives research support from GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and Depomed. All other authors report no conflicts of interest.
This clinical trial was registered 24 February 2012: clinicaltrials.gov identifier NCT01545466.
- Issue online: 16 OCT 2014
- Version of Record online: 18 JUL 2014
- Manuscript Accepted: 22 MAY 2014
- American Headache Society Fellowship
- Headache Research Fund of the John Graham Headache Center, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital
- randomized controlled trial
Our objective was to assess the safety, feasibility, and effects of the standardized 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course in adults with migraines.
Stress is a well-known trigger for headaches. Research supports the general benefits of mind/body interventions for migraines, but there are few rigorous studies supporting the use of specific standardized interventions. MBSR is a standardized 8-week mind/body intervention that teaches mindfulness meditation/yoga. Preliminary research has shown MBSR to be effective for chronic pain syndromes, but it has not been evaluated for migraines.
We conducted a randomized controlled trial with 19 episodic migraineurs randomized to either MBSR (n = 10) or usual care (n = 9). Our primary outcome was change in migraine frequency from baseline to initial follow-up. Secondary outcomes included change in headache severity, duration, self-efficacy, perceived stress, migraine-related disability/impact, anxiety, depression, mindfulness, and quality of life from baseline to initial follow-up.
MBSR was safe (no adverse events), with 0% dropout and excellent adherence (daily meditation average: 34 ± 11 minutes, range 16-50 minutes/day). Median class attendance from 9 classes (including retreat day) was 8 (range [3, 9]); average class attendance was 6.7 ± 2.5. MBSR participants had 1.4 fewer migraines/month (MBSR: 3.5 to 1.0 vs control: 1.2 to 0 migraines/month, 95% confidence interval CI [−4.6, 1.8], P = .38), an effect that did not reach statistical significance in this pilot sample. Headaches were less severe, although not significantly so (−1.3 points/headache on 0-10 scale, [−2.3, 0.09], P = .053) and shorter (−2.9 hours/headache, [−4.6, −0.02], P = .043) vs control. Migraine Disability Assessment and Headache Impact Test-6 dropped in MBSR vs control (−12.6, [−22.0, −1.0], P = .017 and −4.8, [−11.0, −1.0], P = .043, respectively). Self-efficacy and mindfulness improved in MBSR vs control (13.2 [1.0, 30.0], P = .035 and 13.1 [3.0, 26.0], P = .035 respectively).
MBSR is safe and feasible for adults with migraines. Although the small sample size of this pilot trial did not provide power to detect statistically significant changes in migraine frequency or severity, secondary outcomes demonstrated this intervention had a beneficial effect on headache duration, disability, self-efficacy, and mindfulness. Future studies with larger sample sizes are warranted to further evaluate this intervention for adults with migraines. This study was prospectively registered (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT01545466).