Biofeedback intervention and Migraine
Migraine is rated as the third most common and eighth most burdensome disease according to the WHO's Global Burden of Disease Study. Some studies suggest that one person in every household experiences migraine. However, less than half the persons with migraine and even fewer people with chronic migraine are actually diagnosed and treated.
Although it is an "invisible" condition, migraine can have a big impact on quality of life. Unlike a headache, a migraine attack can actually last for days and encompass many phases. The headache pain portion of the migraine attack can include moderate or severe head pain as well as sensitivity to light, sound, odors and increased skin sensitivity. In addition, migraine attacks are often accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting. These symptoms can make it extremely difficult to function.
The good news is that there are a range of pharmacologic (medication) and nonpharmacologic (non-medication) treatments available. Pharmacologic approaches can be acute or preventive interventions. Non-pharmacologic treatments for migraine management are equally as important and can be used in conjunction with meditation treatments or on their own. They include biofeedback, cognitive-behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques and other forms of stress management.
Clinical biofeedback is justifiable and cost-effectivce for dealing with many types of headache including migraine. A great deal of research has examined differences in psychophysiological variables - most noteably EMG and blood flow measurements that can reliably distingish between various types of headaches. A quick seach on PubMed using search terms for EMG and primary headache disorders revealed nearly 300 citations.
A good review of options can be found in the book - Biofeedback : A Practioners Guide, Edited by Mark S Schwartz and Frank Andrasik. Published by the Gilford Press.
Biofeedback can be a useful adjunct to other measures such as a "headache diary" in order to indentify potential trigger factors. With the NeXus biofeedback system and Biotrace software our starting point would be to use a BVP (Blood Volume Pulse sensor) with head placement along with skin temperature and potentially EMG measurement from the trapezius muscles.