By: Meagan St. Amour
There are many people who suffer from migraine headaches, however very little is known or understood about the negative impacts migraines can have on an individual’s quality of life. Migraine headaches are characterized by an intense, throbbing pain that can be accompanied with nausea and can causes impairment of daily functioning . Most people who suffer from migraines are classified as having frequent migraine headaches (more than 2 per month). However, 25% of migraneurs report multiple migraines per week .
According to research, individuals who experience migraines tend to have symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low feelings of self-efficacy . In a study which compared people who suffer from migraines to people who do not suffer migraines, those who suffered from frequent migraines had a greater difficulty relaxing, experienced increased restlessness, and had ill feelings during stressful situations . In addition, they reported more anxiety, worry, irritation, and negative moods, all of which can potentially trigger migraine attacks .
On the contrary however, positive moods have been linked to reduced pain reactivity and increased pain tolerance . This suggests that migraine treatment interventions should be directed toward reducing negative emotions to reduce migraine frequency .
Much of migraine therapy is underused. Non-pharmacologic therapies for migraines include biofeedback, relaxation, and cognitive behavioural therapy . However, these are only offered to a small amount of patients. A principle non-pharmacological way to prevent migraine is identification and avoidance of triggers for migraine attacks. For some people, stress or caffeine can be a trigger . Therefore, to prevent the onset and decrease migraine frequency, the individual would have to practice techniques to lower their stress levels or cut caffeine out of their daily life.
One therapy that studies have shown to be effective, but is not often suggested is Mediation. Meditation has a positive effect on emotional and physical health, and has been proven to reduce physiological and psychological arousal of stress . Those who practice meditation have 50-70% fewer hospital admissions that those who do not . Specifically, Pseudomeditation is a specific form of meditation that involves a combination of body awareness and mental control to relax and/or divert attention away from head pain . Pseudomeditation involves becoming aware of sensations in the body and creating images of participating in daily activities .
Furthermore, religion and spirituality can reduce anxiety, depression, and decrease mortality among a sick population through positivity . Correlational studies have shown that individuals with strong religious or spiritual lives tend to be healthier, both physical and mentally .
As for pharmacologic therapies, long-term prophylactic drugs can be prescribed by physicians to treat migraines. The goals of these drugs are to decrease migraine attack frequency, intensity, and duration; improve daily functioning and reduce disability . However, since there are limitations of drug treatments, patients and health care providers consider behavioural treatments, as listed above, as an alternative or an addition to pharmacological treatments .
For those who suffer from migraines, speak to a health care provider about trying the following behavioural therapies above that enrich positivity in life to create an overall better quality of life and reducing migraines.
 Wachholtz, A. B., & Pargament, K. I. (2008). Migraines and meditation: Does it spiritually matter. Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 31, 351-366. doi: 10.1007/s10865-008-366
 Loder, E., & Biandi, D. (2005). General principles of migraine management: The changing role of prevention. Headache and Pain Management, 45, 33-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.4501002.x/full
 Nesturiuc, Y., & Martin, A. (2007). Efficacy of biofeedback for migraine: A meta-analysis. Elsevier, 128, 111-127. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2006.09.007