Migraine headaches affect about approximately 15% of the population, and some notable efforts have been made to develop meditation interventions to address pain and mood among this population. Many studies examine one form of meditation, but few examine multiple techniques to identify key components needed for meditation to reduce pain.
Through a new study, scientists wanted to determine key meditation ingredients that positively impact mood and headache factors across different meditation techniques and to establish an initial time or” dose” needed to reach proactive treatment efficacy.
Scientists noted, “Meditation practice has been associated with improved pain and decreased migraine headaches frequency in previous studies. However, it is unknown if all forms of cognitive control, both those that contain meaningful practices for the participant (e.g., meditation, relaxation) and meaningless practices (e.g., simple distraction), would be equally effective in reducing migraine headache frequency or pain levels.”
For the study, scientists identified the data from a previous study migraines and meditation that involved 83 individuals with frequent migraines. Participants were instructed to practice spiritual meditation, internally-focused secular meditation, externally-focused secular meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. The participants also completed daily headache diaries.
Scientists noted, “Meditation participants were instructed to begin their meditation by softly repeating their meditation aloud a few times to help them focus, and then to continue to silently focus on the phrase, and how the phrase is reflected in their lives. If the participants felt they were losing focus, they should repeat the phrase aloud to refocus and then continue with the silent meditation.”
Participants in the spiritual meditation group were asked to focus on spiritual phrases, for example- ‘God is peace.’ Participants with internally-focused secular meditation were asked to focus on positive self-reinforcement phrases such as “I am good.”
Other group, i.e., externally-focused secular meditation, was asked to focus on phrases such as “Grass is green.” And the remaining progressive muscle relaxation group focused on cognitive techniques to reduce muscle tension, which they also practiced for 20 minutes per day for 30 days.
Participants in the externally-focused meditation group found to form a cognitive distraction. The other three practices were meaningfully focused on spirituality, self-esteem, or one’s own body — and thus considered active.
Practicing the active techniques found to decrease migraine pain over 30 days. The most significant change occurred after 20 days of practice.
Scientists noted, “Simple cognitive distraction techniques, such as mental distractions with phrases that do not provide cognitive or physical stress management, may reduce immediate migraine headache pain, but may have a limited long-term impact on migraine headache pain or negative mood. However, when practiced 20 min per day for at least 20 days, active cognitive-focus techniques using meaningful practices among frequent migraineurs may effectively reduce migraine headache pain.”
The study is published in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine.