Certain types of meditation may be useful for relieving or reducing migraine symptoms. This may be because meditation reduces stress, which can be a migraine trigger.

Some research suggests that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training, which includes meditation, may reduce migraine frequency. However, larger studies are necessary to confirm this.

This article discusses meditation for migraine relief, including whether it works, how it works, which type is best, and how to try it.

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There is both research-based and anecdotal evidence to suggest that some types of meditation may be an effective way to reduce migraine attacks.

A 2020 study investigated the effects of taking part in MBSR training for those experiencing frequent migraine episodes. The study showed a reduction in migraine frequency after 12 weeks of practicing mindfulness meditation, as well as improvements in other symptoms, such as depression.

The researchers concluded that MBSR may be beneficial for those who experience migraine, but they noted that more research is necessary to support this.

While there is research indicating that meditation may help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine episodes, there is little evidence to suggest that meditation can reduce pain once an episode has begun.

There has been research on the effect of meditation on acute pain in general, though. A 2023 review of previous research on this topic found some evidence that mindfulness meditation can help reduce pain intensity in some cases. However, this study was not specific to migraine pain.

It is not clear how meditation might help those with migraine. One theory is that it reduces stress, which is a known trigger for migraine.

A 2019 research review suggests that mindfulness meditation influences stress pathways in the brain, altering brain structures and activity in areas that regulate attention and emotion.

Long-term meditation can improve a person’s ability to manage their stressors and have better control over their perceptions and emotional reactions. According to an older 2015 study, this is one of the ways that MBSR may affect perceived pain intensity.

The majority of research about meditation for migraine reduction focuses on mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation encourages people to bring their attention to the present moment.

There are many approaches to meditation, ranging from secular to spiritual. Another 2015 study assessed the effect of four different types of meditation on 92 people who experienced frequent migraine headaches and had never tried meditation before. The four types were:

  • spiritual meditation, which in this study involved focusing on a positive phrase about a god or deity
  • internally focused secular meditation, which involved focusing on a positive phrase about oneself
  • externally focused secular meditation, which involved focusing on a phrase about one’s environment
  • progressive muscle relaxation, which involves individually tensing and relaxing the muscles in the body

The participants practiced these types of meditation for 30 days. While each group experienced some improvement in headache frequency, only the spiritual meditation group showed a statistically significant reduction. People in this group also used less migraine medication.

It is unclear why this type of meditation appeared the most effective, but researchers theorize that the spiritual component of meditation may help people feel they have more support or a way of coping.

Learn more about the different types of meditation.

People can try meditation at home, starting with as small a timeframe as they would like. They may wish to start with 1 minute and work their way up or try a program or app that guides them through a beginner’s course.

For people who are new to meditation, mindfulness meditation is one of the most well-studied and accessible types. To try it:

  1. Find a place to sit, either in a chair with the feet on the floor or cross-legged on a comfortable surface.
  2. Close the eyes and take several deep breaths in and out.
  3. Bring attention to the present moment. People may find it helpful to focus on their breathing.
  4. When thoughts arise, notice them and then gently bring the focus back to the present.
  5. Continue this for as long as a person wants. When ready, take a few final breaths and open the eyes.

Some people may find that they get a headache after meditation. This may be because they are sitting in an uncomfortable or unnatural position that is causing tension within the body.

For this reason, it is important to make meditation comfortable rather than force the body into a certain position. Those who find it difficult to sit up with no back support may prefer sitting in a chair or lying down on a mat.

A person may also find it helpful to ease into meditation by starting with short sessions that become longer over time.

If meditation continues causing headaches after these adjustments, a person should speak with a doctor.

Some research suggests that regular meditation may be an effective way of reducing the frequency and severity of migraine episodes. Meditation may also improve other symptoms that those with migraine experience, such as depression.

There are several reasons why meditation may have this effect. For example, meditation may improve a person’s ability to manage stress, which is a potential migraine trigger. However, scientists are still learning how it works.

People can try mindfulness meditation at home or in a group setting. There are various classes, apps, and programs to help people get started. Meditation is most effective when a person practices regularly, so it may take some time to produce beneficial effects.