About one in six people suffer from severe headaches or migraines in the U.S. alone. These headaches are one of the primary causes of disability worldwide due to their debilitating effects. Therapy for migraines has evolved over the last few decades to accommodate patients who struggle with their mental health in connection with migraines.
Patients with migraines are five times more likely to develop depression and 25 times more likely to develop anxiety than those without migraines. Stress is one of the main triggers for migraines — one of the first things behavioral treatments and migraine therapy attempt to address. From stimulation techniques to medication and relaxation, there are many different methods that can help reduce the mental health impacts of migraine attacks.
What Are the Benefits of Migraine Therapy?
Excessive headaches or migraines can make it difficult to manage important things in your life, such as relationships, school and work. Migraines can lead to depression, anxiety and stress that can wear on your mental health over time.
Migraines and stress are part of a cyclical process of cause and effect, so finding ways to minimize or manage your migraines can improve your overall state of mind. There are many health benefits to integrating migraine therapy into your routine in addition to reducing stress, including:
- Pain management
- Learning relaxation methods
- Improved sleep patterns
- Reduced anxiety
- Nervous system stability
- Increased sense of control
Additional benefits of migraine therapy could also include:
- Diet: Certain foods, such as caffeine, meats and alcohol, can trigger migraines in some people. Finding effective migraine therapy methods can allow you to enjoy these foods in moderation and make goals for an improved diet.
- Fitness: If your migraines prevent you from enjoying physical activities, migraine therapy can allow you to enjoy regular exercise again, which offers even more health benefits.
- Reducing side effects: Many migraine medications can have a variety of side effects, including dizziness, weight gain and nausea. Using migraine therapy in place of medications can eliminate these side effects.
The Science Behind Migraine Therapy
As with many conditions, alternatives to medicinal treatment options, including therapy, are preferred by both patients and medical professionals. Treatment options for the prevention of migraines have expanded over the last few years to help those who can’t find relief, even from different medications.
Neurologists say that these medications, often developed to treat epilepsy, can create intolerable side effects that outweigh the nuisance of migraines in some patients. Some of these adverse effects include sleepiness, chest pain, nervousness and muscle weakness. Over time, patients who only take these medications during flare-ups or on and off over a period of years eventually become nonresponsive to the pain-relieving properties of the drugs.
On the other hand, some professionals believe that therapy, when combined with certain dosages of medication, works well for preventing migraines. Because every patient experiences symptoms of migraines to a different degree, it can be difficult to determine which medications at which dosages would be most effective. No single approach works for everyone, so trying various options can help you find the one that works best.
Types of Migraine Therapy
There are a few different types of migraine therapy you can try to see what relieves your symptoms or any side effects associated with your migraines.
The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) found that 30%-60% of people who suffer from migraines reported fewer instances of headaches after using one or more of these therapies, especially for those who also live with anxiety and depression. Here are three different migraine therapy options to consider.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a common form of psychotherapy that has been shown to manage stress and anxiety that leads to migraines. This type of therapy identifies patterns of negative thinking and makes connections between thoughts, behavior and physical feelings. While CBT is used for many different reasons, there is migraine-specific CBT that seems to be effective at reducing migraines and headaches.
In this type of CBT, therapists will try to change behaviors that increase the likelihood of developing a migraine. However, if a patient experiences a reduction in the frequency of their migraines but still feels their migraines impact their daily life, therapists may shift to a mindfulness-based intervention CBT. This area of CBT focuses on reducing the adverse effects of migraines on people’s lives by identifying risks for migraine attacks and how to change responses that contribute to anxiety and depression.
Relaxation therapy consists of using different relaxation techniques to calm the nervous system and provide similar benefits to CBT. One of the key triggers for migraines is stress, and relaxation therapy works to directly target stress by using one or more of these techniques:
- Rhythmic or deep breathing: Taking long, slow breaths with deep inhales and exhales is a common practice for relaxation therapy. Some therapists will instruct patients to count to five with each breath and pay attention to how their body relaxes.
- Muscle relaxation: This technique teaches you to let go of tension in your muscles by focusing on any areas that feel tense or cramped and loosening them up.
- Meditation: There are many different approaches to meditation, but the ultimate goal is to help stop the flow of thoughts and help you focus on one central thing, also known as mindfulness practice. Meditation can help improve your response to pain, including migraines.
- Mental imagery relaxation: Also known as guided imagery, this form of relaxation therapy works to create a connection between the mind and body with peaceful, calm images.
Biofeedback therapy involves connecting a patient to machines to measure involuntary physiological responses, including heart rate, muscle tension and skin perspiration. Essentially, this therapy provides physical measurements of stress to help you learn and understand how to change your reaction and begin a preventative strategy to reduce it. The machine will show the patient sounds or graphs to indicate when you’re feeling more stressed so you learn to control it.
Is Migraine Therapy Right for Me?
When looking into migraine therapy, there are a few things to consider before making your decision. Here are some things to think about before you choose another migraine treatment option.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’re thinking about adding any therapy or reducing your medication dosage — or eliminating drugs altogether — it’s critical to talk with your primary care physician and go over the best options. Share your current symptoms, needs and concerns to identify the best course of action. Your doctor can give you a referral to a migraine therapist or even suggest another alternative that fits your needs.
Before starting therapy or medications, it’s a good idea to check if the costs are covered by health insurance and check how much you might have to pay out of pocket.
Try Wearable Devices
Before making a decision or committing to therapy or medications, you can also try a wearable device that provides drug-free relief, such as CEFALY DUAL Enhanced. This device aims to solve the persistent problem of migraine through advanced therapeutic innovations.
This FDA-cleared device for helping with migraines targets your trigeminal nerve — the nerve often responsible for migraine headache pain. This could be a preferable option to try before starting medications or therapy to avoid potentially adverse side effects of medications or costly expenses and time commitments for sessions.
Try CEFALY Risk-Free as a Migraine Treatment Alternative
At CEFALY, we know how frustrating it can be to suffer from migraines and have to compromise with medications that don’t always work. Dealing with migraines can make you feel isolated from the world and have a negative impact on your mental health.
Our migraine device attaches to your forehead and can be used as a standalone treatment or in combination with other methods you find effective. Unlike some techniques, CEFALY comes with fewer side effects and works to treat and prevent migraines. Before you try therapy, why not try CEFALY risk-free? Learn more about how CEFALY works and try it with our 60-day guarantee.