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Mind/Body and Behavioral Treatments: The Evidence and Approach

Authors

  • Rebecca Erwin Wells MD, MPH,

    Corresponding author
    1. From the Department of Neurology, Graham Headache Center, Brigham and Women's/Faulkner Hospitals and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
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  • Elizabeth Loder MD, MPH

    1. From the Department of Neurology, Graham Headache Center, Brigham and Women's/Faulkner Hospitals and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
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  • Conflicts of Interest: Dr. Wells and Dr. Loder have no conflicts of interest.

R.E. Wells, Department of Neurology, Wake Forest Baptist Health, 6th floor Janeway Tower, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.

Abstract

Nonpharmacological treatments may help many patients with headaches. This review addresses the most common questions about nondrug treatment options from the perspective of patients by (1) defining behavioral and mind/body treatments, (2) discussing the research evidence supporting their use, and (3) describing their role in the management of headaches. Research suggests that mind/body and behavioral treatments may decrease the frequency of migraine or tension-type headaches by 35-50%, an effect size comparable with those observed in medication trials but with fewer side effects than drugs. Most benefit seems to occur in those who combine medications with nonpharmacological treatments. Despite the fact that research evidence for behavioral treatment of headaches is stronger than that for specific mind/body treatments, research shows that adults with headache in the general population are more likely to use mind/body treatments. Nondrug treatments may have a longer time to onset of benefits than drugs, but their effect may be broader and more durable because they may improve stress, coping, and self-efficacy. Additional research is needed to address other questions that patients and their physicians may have about these interventions.

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