Using a smartphone app for fewer migraines

I’m one of the 36 million Americans who suffer from migraines.

In fact, I can still remember my very first one. It happened in my 20s and the shock of suddenly having that much pain that lasted for a solid three days left a mark I’ll never forget.

Like most migraine sufferers, I’ve probably tried just about everything over the years to get relief. From meditation and massage to Botox injections to my head and neck, if someone said it could help, I’ve tried it.

But, if you have migraines too, you probably already know exactly how the story turns out. While some of those things have offered a small amount of temporary relief, it seems like migraines always come back with a vengeance.

Now, however, a new study by researchers at NYU School of Medicine is offering new hope to migraine sufferers. And what’s really amazing is that it’s not a pill. It’s not a shot. It’s not anything you have to see your doctor for to get a prescription or even a referral. It’s just a simple app you can use on your smartphone.

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Relax your head with RELAXaHEAD

The app is aptly named RELAXaHEAD. And, it was developed by the team at NYU in partnership with a software firm.

According to the researchers, it’s basically a form of behavioral therapy that guides you through progressive muscle relaxation or PMR. It teaches you to alternately relax and tense different muscle groups to reduce stress.

While the idea of using a behavioral therapy app to help with migraines might sound strange, the researchers say that the idea of behavioral therapy in migraine treatment is pretty common.

In fact, according to the study’s senior investigator and neurologist Mia Minen, MD, MPH, patients are often prescribed drug treatments and behavioral therapy but don’t pursue the therapy even after a doctor’s recommendation because of the expense and inconvenience.

“Oftentimes they end up only taking medications,” she says.

This led the researchers to develop the app – a more convenient way to access the therapy.

Four fewer headache days per month

And, the results of their study demonstrate just how well their hard work paid off…

To see if the app might increase therapy compliance and make a positive impact on migraine frequency, the research team analyzed the app use by 51 confirmed migraine patients. The participants had an average of 13 headache days per month.

The researchers asked the participants to use the app for 90 days and to keep a daily record of the frequency and severity of their headaches, while the app kept track of how long and often the patients used PMR.

And guess what…

Migraine sufferers who used the app at least twice a week experienced on average four fewer headache days per month!

Yep, they cut their number of migraines each month by almost a third just by relaxing!

“Our study offers evidence that patients may pursue behavioral therapy if it is easily accessible, they can do it on their own time, and it is affordable,” says Minen. “Clinicians need to rethink their treatment approach to migraine because many of the accepted therapies, although proven to be the current, best course of treatment, aren’t working for all lifestyles.”

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App options

If you’re like me and live with migraines, you might be ready to download RELAXaHEAD right now. However, the app is not yet publically available.

But don’t worry…

There are other relaxation apps that can help.

The Migraine Research Foundation offers a list of smartphone apps that they recommend.

There are also numerous YouTube videos that teach you how to perform progressive muscle relaxation in the comfort of your own home.

The great news is that it’s now been confirmed that just two days a week of PMR can reduce the frequency of migraines by almost a third. For me and probably most migraine sufferers that’s enough to make it worth giving PMR a try.

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  1. Smartphone relaxation app helps some manage migraine — EurekAlert!
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.