The Association of Changes in Pain Acceptance and Headache-Related Disability

Ann Behav Med. 2019 Jun 4;53(7):686-690. doi: 10.1093/abm/kay076.


Background: Migraine accounts for substantial suffering and disability. Previous studies show cross-sectional associations between higher pain acceptance and lower headache-related disability in individuals with migraine, but none has evaluated this association longitudinally during migraine treatment.

Purpose: This study evaluated whether changes in pain acceptance were associated with changes in headache-related disability and migraine characteristics in a randomized controlled trial (Women's Health and Migraine) that compared effects of behavioral weight loss (BWL) treatment and migraine education (ME) on headache frequency in women with migraine and overweight/obesity.

Methods: This was a post hoc analysis of 110 adult women with comorbid migraine and overweight/obesity who received 16 weeks of either BWL or ME. Linear and nonlinear mixed effects modeling methods were used to test for between-group differences in change in pain acceptance, and also to examine the association between change in pain acceptance and change in headache disability.

Results: BWL and ME did not differ on improvement in pain acceptance from baseline across post-treatment and follow-up. Improvement in pain acceptance was associated with reduced headache disability, even when controlling for intervention-related improvements in migraine frequency, headache duration, and pain intensity.

Conclusions: This study is the first to show that improvements in pain acceptance following two different treatments are associated with greater reductions in headache-related disability, suggesting a potential new target for intervention development.

Clinical trials information: NCT01197196.

Keywords: Acceptance; Disability; Headache; Migraine; Obesity; Pain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Disabled Persons
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / therapy*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Weight Loss*
  • Weight Reduction Programs*
  • Young Adult

Associated data