Relax! Biofeedback Therapy May Help with Migraines

How often do you hear that stress is a killer and will make your life a living hell until you get it under control? I bet it’s quite a bit. I talk about it all the time, and with good reason: stress is a natural response to specific situations and events; however, long-term exposure leads to problems with your health. It’s easier to get sick, irritability is a constant companion, and a good night’s sleep seems like a myth.

Biofeedback therapy may be able to help you escape the chronic and disabling stress spiral that often accompanies migraines. Therefore, it’s essential to keep your edge by keeping an eye on all the measures deemed safe and unsafe in the treatment of migraines. In this article, we’re focusing on the body’s ability to heal and take care of itself with biofeedback.

What is Biofeedback Therapy?

Biofeedback is a technique used to help you gain control over the involuntary movements in your body, like your heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension. You may not think you have control of these things, but your mind is an incredibly powerful tool. You can become more aware of the inner workings of your body and send “messages” to other parts of your body that will control your health and overall function.

That’s the general idea of biofeedback, but you can test the theory with this simple exercise:

·         Find a quiet spot to sit

·         Check your posture to make sure you’re sitting up straight

·         Close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Inhale until you simply can’t get any more air in there, and then release. Release until you think there’s nothing else in there, and then release a bit more. Repeat.

·         Focus your entire attention on your forehead and make the skin and muscles relax. Do that for your whole face.

·         Shift your attention to your neck and focus on releasing the tension and tightness in your neck and throat area. This will probably take some time.

·         Move your attention down your body, focusing mainly on the tighter areas.

It’s important to focus all your attention on specific body parts to relieve tension and relax your muscles. If you start to drift, gently guide yourself back to the areas of pressure or tightness to release.

Mental Health and Migraines

Biofeedback is useful in managing stress. It’s also helpful in treating migraine symptoms in those with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or GAD (general anxiety disorder)Depression and anxiety are constant and regular companions for migraineurs, which is why I address it so frequently. In addition to these primary issues, biofeedback helps treat other psychological conditions like:

·         OCD

·         Food cravings

·         ADD/ADHD

·         Postpartum depression

What the Research Says about Migraines and Biofeedback

Several studies show promising results. For instance, research out of the Department of Neurology at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Harvard Medical School shows that 35% of patients who received biofeedback for three months reported fewer severe headaches. After six months, that number jumps to 57%.  One study even reported that biofeedback rivaled outcomes seen with medication use.

The results that show biofeedback could help with migraine symptoms are promising; however, keep in mind that everyone is different, and you may not respond to the treatment. That doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else.  If you have any questions about this possible treatment option or any others, please reach out! You’re not alone, and I’m always willing to talk about a healing journey!

Sources:

1.       National Library of Medicine: Biofeedback in Headache: An Overview of Approaches and Evidence (Linked in text).

2.       National Library of Medicine:  Efficacy of Biofeedback in the Treatment of Migraine and Tension Type Headaches (linked in text)

3.       MHNI Biofeedback and relaxation therapy

4.       Psychiatry Advisor: Biofeedback Can Help Improve Symptoms of Mental Disorders