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Biofeedback-assisted relaxation in migraine headache.

05 Jan

Two headache studies show interesting preliminary findings - one on how Biofeedback helps migraine sufferers, with and without auras; and another on how Autogenic Training impacts migraine versus other kinds of headaches..

Researchers examined whether people suffering from migraines who have auras respond differently to biofeedback-assisted relaxation than those without auras and, if so, whether the variability in outcome could be explained by blood flow velocity.

Twenty people with migraine underwent 12 sessions of biofeedback-assisted relaxation therapy, while 20 controls simply were told to relax on their own. Cerebral blood flow velocity was measured bilaterally in the middle cerebral artery with transcranial Doppler technology.

The study had many interesting findings: the biofeedback group showed significant (P <.05) reductions in pain, depression, and anxiety compared to the control group. Patients with and without aura did equally well. There were significant (P <.05) left to right blood flow velocity differences only in the migraine with aura group. Maximum blood flow velocities were significantly higher (P <.05) in the migraine with aura group than in the cohort without aura. There was an inverse correlation between indicators of anxiety and blood flow velocity, perhaps related to hyperventilation-induced constriction in the small vessels distal to the middle cerebral artery.

The study concludes that the positive treatment response to biofeedback and relaxation in migraine headache is not related to presence of aura, nor to changes in blood flow velocity, but may be associated with reduction in anxiety and depression.

Citation: Vasudeva S, Claggett AL, Tietjen GE, McGrady AV. Biofeedback-assisted relaxation in migraine headache: relationship to cerebral blood flow velocity in the middle cerebral artery. Headache. 2003 Mar;43(3):245-50.

Researchers from the Laboratory of Neurochemistry and Experimental Medicine, and the Department of Vascular Neurology at Semmelweis University Budapest, Hungary examined the effects of Schultz-type autogenic training on headache-related drug consumption and headache frequency. They compared patients with migraine, and patients with tension-type headache, or mixed (migraine plus tension-type) headache over an 8-month period.

Twenty-five women with primary headache (11 with mixed headache, 8 with migraine, and 6 with tension-type headache) were evaluated via an open-label, self-controlled, 8-month, follow-up study design. After an initial 4 months of observation, patients began learning Schultz-type autogenic training, modified for patients with headache. They practiced autogenic training on a regular basis for 4 months. Measures were based on data from headache diaries and daily medication records, headache frequencies and the amounts of analgesics, "migraine-specific" drugs (ergots and triptans), and anxiolytics taken by the headache patients in the three groups.

Within the first month of autogenic training, headache frequencies were significantly reduced in patients with tension-type and mixed headache. Migraine patients experienced significant reduction in frequency by the third month of autogenic training. Decreases in headache frequencies were accompanied by decreases in consumption of migraine drugs and analgesics.

The study concludes that Schultz-type autogenic training is an effective therapeutic approach that can lead to a reduction in both headache frequency and the use of headache medication.

Zsombok T, Juhasz G, Budavari A, Vitrai J, Bagdy G. Effect of autogenic training on drug consumption in patients with primary headache: an 8-month follow-up study. Headache. 2003 Mar;43(3):251-7.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award