Migraines affect more than 5 million people in Spain and 36 million in the United States and it is not a new disease. Even Hippocrates, 400 years BC, had suffered. It is 3 times more frequent in women than in men and the primary symptoms include moderate to severe headache that is often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Patients are often prescribed pharmacological treatments and behavior therapy. Although according to Minen, assistant professor of population health and head of headache research at Langone Health University in NYU, “they often just end up taking medicines”.
That is why a recent study is very encouraging, in which migraine patients who used a relaxation technique using a mobile application at least twice a week experienced an average of four days less headache per month.
Developed in part by researchers from the NYU School of Medicine, the application, called RELAXaHEAD, guides patients through progressive muscle relaxation or PMR. In this form of behavioral therapy, patients alternately relax and tense different muscle groups to reduce stress.
“Our study offers evidence that patients can follow a therapy that helps them change their habits if it is easily accessible, they can do it on their own time and it is affordable,” says lead researcher and study neurologist Mia Minen. “Doctors must rethink their approach to migraine treatment because many of the accepted therapies, although they have been shown to be the best current treatment, are not working for all lifestyles.”
To see if an application could increase compliance, the research team analyzed the use of the application in 51 migraine patients. Participants were asked to use the application for 90 days and to keep a daily record of the frequency and severity of their headaches, while the application kept track of how long and how often patients followed the protocol of relaxation.
Minen says that taken together, the results of the study suggest that smartphone technologies “can effectively teach patients the skills needed to manage their migraines.”