A reanalysis of a randomized trial on meditation for migraine headaches: Distraction is not enough but meditation takes time

Complement Ther Med. 2019 Oct;46:136-143. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.08.011. Epub 2019 Aug 14.


Objective: Migraine headaches affect about approximately 15% of the population and some notable efforts have been made to develop meditation interventions to address pain and mood among this population. However, key active ingredients and the necessary duration of meditation interventions to produce an effect are still unknown. The purpose of this study is to assess key meditation ingredients that positively impact mood and headache factors across different meditation techniques and to establish an initial time or" dose" needed to reach proactive treatment efficacy.

Method: In this longitudinal study, three active management forms of meditation were compared to a cognitive distraction meditation to assess the effects on migraine headaches and emotions over a 30 day period when practiced 20 min per day.

Results: The active group showed significant decreases in anger (p = .005) and migraine pain (p = .002) over time. Further analysis showed that the bulk of the change for the active management group occurred in the final 10 days, after 20 days of practice of the technique (p < .05).

Conclusion: This suggests that cognitively active forms of meditation are more effective in reducing migraine headache pain and negative mood than distraction techniques. However, individuals engaging in these strategies need to consistently practice these techniques for approximately 20 days to proactively reduce migraine headache pain and negative mood.

Keywords: Intervention; Longitudinal; Meditation; Migraine; Mood; Pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Affect / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Migraine Disorders / psychology*
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Treatment Outcome