Efficacy of biofeedback in the treatment of migraine and tension type headaches

Department of Neurology, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
Pain physician (Impact Factor: 3.54). 11/2008; 12(6):1005-11.
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Biofeedback is an established non-pharmacologic technique commonly used in the treatment of migraine and tension type headaches. Multiple published studies have suggested that biofeedback is effective in reducing the frequency and severity of headaches, often allowing patients to decrease their dependence on medication. Studies have also suggested that biofeedback may effect a decrease in medical utilization.
Assess the efficacy of biofeedback in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine and tension type headaches.
Randomized, prospective, single blind, single center controlled trial.
Sixty-four patients with migraine with or without aura and/or tension type headaches, by ICHD-1 criteria, age 18 to 55, who had suffered from headaches for more than one year, were entered into the study. Patients were randomly assigned to receive biofeedback in addition to the basic relaxation instruction or relaxation techniques alone. All patients received instruction in pain theory. Biofeedback training consisted of 10 50-minute sessions utilizing standard EMG feedback from the frontalis and trapezius muscles and temperature from the third finger of the dominant hand. Visual and auditory feedback was provided. Thirty-three patients were assigned to receive biofeedback plus the relaxation techniques and 31, the relaxation techniques alone. All patients were asked to respond to periodic questionnaires for 36 months. The primary analysis was an intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis. The subsidiary analyses were not and the 11 subjects (7 in the relaxation alone and 4 in the biofeedback group) who received no treatment at all were analyzed and the results were qualitatively the same.
Patients who completed the program with education in pain theory and relaxation techniques showed a statistically significant decrease in the frequency and severity of the headaches in the first 12 months that continued to 36 months. Biofeedback provided no additional benefit, specifically no change in the frequency or severity of the headaches. After 3 months 48% of those in the relaxation group reported fewer severe headaches, while 35% of those in the biofeedback group reported fewer severe headaches; after 6 months, 52% of those in the relaxation group reported fewer severe headaches as compared with 57% reporting fewer severe headaches in the biofeedback group. The number of medications used by the patients and the utilization of medical care decreased in both groups over 36 months suggesting a regression to the mean.
Compliance was an issue throughout the study. Patients dropped out from the outset and that increased over time. Recovery of questionnaires was difficult and fewer were completed at each 3-month interval. Lack of a large control group who did not receive biofeedback or instruction in relaxation techniques.
Biofeedback is an extremely costly and time-consuming treatment modality that, in our study, provided no additional benefit when compared to simple relaxation techniques alone, in the treatment of migraine and tension type headaches in adults.

Download full-text


Available from: William J Mullally, Jul 01, 2014
5 Reads
  • Source
    • "Tension type headaches occur in high number of the population and the impact on health care utilization and decreased productivity is marked too.3 Medication remains the mainstay of treatment for all types of headaches and vast amounts of prescription and over-the-counter medications are used. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Chronic tension-type headache (CTTH) is recognized as the most common type of headache and can be further defined as either episodic or chronic. Regarding the chronic nature of CTTH and intolerance or side effects of drugs that are used for treatment, other methods of treatment such as Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) has been used as a convenient and available method for treatment and prevention of CTTH. In the current study, we evaluated the efficacy of the imipramine versus TENS in the prevention of the CTTH as a prospective clinical trial. In this study, 138 patients with confirmed CTTH were randomized to be treated either with imipramine or TENS method. Sixty nine patients were treated with TENS and 69 cases were regarded as controls and were treated with imipramine. In the Imipramine group, treatment was performed by imipramine tablet, 25mg, twice daily. In the TENS group, patients were treated thrice weekly for ten weeks, each lasting 15 minutes in temporal and occipital regions. Three months after treatment, both the TENS and imipramine significantly reduced the severity of tension headache (p < 0.05). However, imipramine was significantly more effective than TENS in reduction of the headache severity (p < 0.05). It appears that TENS method may be a good alternative method for patients suffering from CTTH. To better evaluate the efficacy of this method in the prevention and treatment of CTTH, more studies are recommended.
    Journal of research in medical sciences 07/2011; 16(7):923-7. · 0.65 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Biofeedback is an established nonpharmacologic technique commonly used in the treatment of migraine and tension-type headaches. Research has also suggested that biofeedback may result in a decrease in medical utilization.104,105 "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Migraine is a serious illness that needs correct treatment for acute attacks and, in addition, a treatment prophylaxis, since patients with migraine suffer during acute attacks and also between attacks. A systematic review of the most relevant clinical trials of migraine headache and its epidemiology, pathophysiology, comorbidity, and prophylactic treatment (medical and nonmedical) was carried out using "Medline" and "PsychINFO" from 1973 to 2009. Approximately 110 trials met our inclusion criteria and were included in the current review. The most effective pharmacological treatment for migraine prophylaxis is propranolol and anticonvulsants such as topiramate, valproic acid, and amitriptyline. Nonmedical treatments such as acupuncture, biofeedback, and melatonin have also been proposed. Peripheral neurostimulation has been suggested for the treatment of chronic daily headache that does not respond to prophylaxis and for the treatment of drug-resistant primary headache. The majority of the pharmacological agents available today have limited efficacy and may cause adverse effects incompatible with long-term use. The review was limited by the highly variable and often insufficient reporting of the complex outcome data and by the fact that migraine prophylaxis trials typically use headache diaries to monitor the course of the disease. The results of the different studies were also presented in different ways, making comparison of the results difficult. An adequate prophylaxis is crucial in reducing disability and preventing the evolution of the problem into a chronic progressive illness. The implications of the present findings were discussed.
    Patient Related Outcome Measures 07/2010; 1:107-18. DOI:10.2147/PROM.S9742
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Migraine is a prevalent disease which is classified into two groups of migraine with aura and without aura. Eighteen percent of women and 6.5 percent of men in United States have migraine headache. Migraine headache is prevalent in all age groups but it usually subsides in adults above fifty. Migraine has many risk factors such as stress, light, tiredness, special foods and beverages. The aim of this study was the evaluation of the effects of body mass index (BMI) on the treatment of migraine headaches. All patients assigned to four groups according to their BMI. Patients with more than three attacks per month received nortriptyline and propranolol for eight weeks. The frequency, duration and severity of pain were measured by visual analogue scale (VAS) and behavioral rating scale (BRS-6) in regular intervals. 203 patients completed the study. 153(75%) subjects were women and 50(25%) were men. Mean age of patients was 30.5 ± 7.1 years. Mean weight was 80.4 ± 14.1 kg and mean height was 1.67 ± 0.07 m. Pain frequency and duration showed statistically significant differences among four groups with better response in patients with lower BMI (P < 0.0001). VAS and BRS-6 scales showed statistically significant differences among four groups in favor of patients with lower BMI (P < 0.0001). This study showed that obesity has a direct influence on the treatment of migraine headaches. It could be recommended to patients to reduce their weight for better response to treatment. In addition, care should be taken about migraine drugs which make a tendency for increased appetite.
    Iranian Journal of Neurology 03/2011; 10(3-4):35-8.
Show more