Headache Home > Biofeedback for Migraines

Thermal Biofeedback
Thermal biofeedback allows a person to consciously raise hand temperature. Some patients who are able to increase hand temperature can reduce the number and intensity of migraines. Migraine research scientists are studying the mechanisms underlying these self-regulation treatments. "To succeed in biofeedback," says a headache specialist, "you must be able to concentrate and you must be motivated to get well."
 
A patient learning thermal biofeedback wears a device that transmits the temperature of an index finger or hand to a monitor. While the patient tries to warm his or her hands, the monitor provides feedback either on a gauge that shows the temperature reading or by emitting a sound or a beep that increases in intensity as the temperature increases.
 
The patient is not told how to raise hand temperature, but is given suggestions such as, "Imagine your hands feel very warm and heavy."
 
Electromyographic (EMG)
In another type of biofeedback called electromyographic or EMG training, electrodes or other sensors measure muscle tension. Through EMG, the patient learns to control muscle tension in the face, neck, and shoulders.
 

Biofeedback for Migraines -- What Does the Research Say?

An analysis of a number of studies (known medically as a meta-analysis) concluded that the benefit of biofeedback is similar to that of migraine prevention medications. A person may have even greater migraine relief when biofeedback is combined with migraine medications.
 
Other studies have shown that when practiced regularly, biofeedback techniques can achieve significant reductions in headache activity. In migraine sufferers, EMG biofeedback has reduced headache activity by approximately 55 percent. Thermal biofeedback, when combined with relaxation training, reduced headache activity by about 35 percent.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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