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Migraines and meditation: does spirituality matter?

Abstract

Migraine headaches are associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety (Waldie and Poulton Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 72: 86–92, 2002) and feelings of low self-efficacy (French et al. Headache, 40: 647–656, 2000). Previous research suggests that spiritual meditation may ameliorate some of the negative traits associated with migraine headaches (Wachholtz and Pargament Journal of behavioral Medicine, 30: 311–318, 2005). This study examined two primary questions: (1) Is spiritual meditation more effective in enhancing pain tolerance and reducing migraine headache related symptoms than secular meditation and relaxation? and, (2) Does spiritual meditation create better mental, physical, and spiritual health outcomes than secular meditation and relaxation techniques? Eighty-three meditation naïve, frequent migraineurs were taught Spiritual Meditation, Internally Focused Secular Meditation, Externally Focused Secular Meditation, or Muscle Relaxation which participants practiced for 20 min a day for one month. Pre-post tests measured pain tolerance (with a cold pressor task), headache frequency, and mental and spiritual health variables. Compared to the other three groups, those who practiced spiritual meditation had greater decreases in the frequency of migraine headaches, anxiety, and negative affect, as well as greater increases in pain tolerance, headache-related self-efficacy, daily spiritual experiences, and existential well being.

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Correspondence to Amy B. Wachholtz.

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Wachholtz, A.B., Pargament, K.I. Migraines and meditation: does spirituality matter?. J Behav Med 31, 351–366 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-008-9159-2

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Keywords

  • Migraine
  • Meditation
  • Pain
  • Spirituality
  • Headache