Get access

Meditation for Migraines: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

Authors

  • Rebecca Erwin Wells MD, MPH,

    Corresponding author
    1. Wake Forest School of Medicine, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
    • Address all correspondence to R.E. Wells, Medical Center Boulevard, 6th floor, Janeway Tower, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA, email: rewells@wakehealth.edu

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Dr. Wells conducted this pilot trial when she was on faculty at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
  • Rebecca Burch MD,

    1. Division of Headache and Pain, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Randall H. Paulsen MD,

    1. Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Peter M. Wayne PhD,

    1. Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Timothy T. Houle PhD,

    1. Wake Forest School of Medicine, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Elizabeth Loder MD, MPH

    1. Division of Headache and Pain, Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

  • 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.

Abstract

Objective

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.

Background

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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).

Conclusions

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).

Ancillary