Stress Management May Be the Best Way to Treat Migraines and Headaches

Though it’s often an easy fix to reach for an over-the-counter medication for a tension headache, alternative treatments may have better long-term results. Biofeedback and stress management are two common ways to treat migraines and tension-type headaches. A study published in Pain Physician assessed the efficacy of biofeedback in reducing the frequency and severity of migraine and tension-type headaches.

Biofeedback is a technique where sensors are placed on your body to observe shifts such as heart rate, temperature changes and muscle tension in real time. Those readings are then used to manipulate your body’s responses. For example a stress response reduces skin temperature because of constriction of blood vessels, while a relaxation response results in dilated blood vessels and warm skin—which helps reduce headache pain.

Sixty-four patients were entered into a randomized, prospective, single-blind study; 33 patients received biofeedback training in addition to instructions in relaxation techniques and 31 received only relaxation techniques. Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire at various points during three years about the total number of headaches and its severity. The study showed that both groups experienced a decrease in the frequency and severity of the headaches throughout the study and the total number of medications used was reduced. However, biofeedback provided no additional benefit in reducing the frequency and severity of headaches than stress management alone.

Bottom line? Managing your stress is the best way to tackle tension headaches and migraines. With the high demands of modern life, it’s no wonder stress-related illnesses account for two-thirds of family doctor visits. Common sources of stress include family and social relationships, work and muscle tension from fatigue and anxiety. There are many ways to cope with and reduce stress; start by developing good sleeping habits, eating and drinking sensibly and exercising regularly.

Biofeedback can be expensive and time consuming, so acupuncture, massage therapy, and vitamins and herbs may be techniques you want to explore. Consult your physician before using these methods and see your doctor if the symptoms of your migraine attacks change.




  • For stress management Galvanic Skin Resistance biofeedback has excellent results. The GSR2 has been around more than 33 years and is an inexpensive, reliable and simple to user relaxation/stress reduction training aid.
    Almost 3/4 of a million in use. Including VA hospitals, private clinics, hospitals, Universities and regular folk taking control of their wellness.
    Mindgrowth offers a 45 unconditional return policy – try GSR2 biofeedback for 6 weeks. If it helps, great, if not return for refund. No stress, no hassles.

  • This is wonderful news for patients and doctors. It makes perfect sense that managing stress is the best way to manage migraines and tension headaches which are known to be caused by stress.

    In addition to the regular exercise, healthy eating and adequate sleep, I always encourage my patients to develop their spiritual life and have faith in God because it reduces their mental pressure when they can unburden their worries and stresses to Him. This is especially true for those patients whose tension headaches and migraines are being triggered by stresses without earthly solutions such as incurable illnesses.

  • Great information! As usual it is best just to help our body cure itself, and not intoxicate it with unnecessary medication. Also other things to avoid are alcohol and too much caffeine, since they disturb our chemical balance.

  • The word “Stress” actually relates to wear and tear as when the rubber meets the road on a tire or the brake pads pressing up against the rotor in the wheel. The term as it applies to living organisms was first introduced by Hans Seyle in the 1930’s who defined it as the consequence of the failure of an organism (human or animal) to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether actual or imagined. Thus stress symptoms are the manifestation of a chronic state of responses to stress triggers that are actually benign. Even a thought can set off the same response mechanism that would be in play while standing in front of a hungry lion. Hence, Seyle’s definition still reaches to the heart of stress management; the idea of the response being inappropriate and engaging in a process of altering ones misperception of pending disaster or imminent danger.

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