Biofeedback and neurofeedback are non-pharmaceutical treatments which are extremely effective for migraines and chronic headaches.
Hemoencephalography (HEG) is a new type of biofeedback where the patient learns to train the frontal lobe cerebral blood flow. An infrared camera reads the temperature of the blood flow in the frontal lobe beneath the skull.
How HEG works:
• The patient begins watching a movie of his or her choice. If the patient keeps the temperature above a threshold level, the movie continues to play.
• If the temperature drops in the frontal lobe, then the movie stops.
• By focusing on a bar graph that’s located on the computer screen, the patient can bring up the temperature and the movie will continue.
This biofeedback system was originally designed for migraine headache treatment, and has shown promising results!
In a recent study, Carmen (2004) took 100 migraine patients who had tried many treatments, including several medications, with little success. In only 6 HEG sessions, positive results were seen, and over 90 percent of the patients reported significantly positive results, according to their own report.
In the 2002 review by Penzien, Rains and Andrasik, it was noted that even by 1980, there were enough studies to conduct a meta-analysis (Blanchard, Andrasik, Ahles, Teders, & O’Keefe, 1980), which revealed that over the 16 studies, behavioral treatment of migraines showed promise. By 1999, Goslin, Gray, McCrory, Eberlin, Tulsky and Hasselblad indentified 355 articles describing behavioral and physical treatment for migraines, and the 70 controlled studies of behavioral treatments for migraines meeting strict criteria for inclusion in this meta-analysis resulted in reductions in migraines of 32 to 49 percent. The treatments included EMG training, relaxation therapy, combined EMG and relaxation, and cognitive-behavior therapy. All were more effective than wait list controls.
Neurofeedback has also been used to treat migraine headaches. Although this research is quite new, it is still very promising (Siniatchkin, Hierundar, Kropp, Khunert, Gerber & Staphani, 2000).
For more information about treatment modalities such as EMG training click here.
Blanchard, E., Andrasik, F., Ahles, T., Teders, S., & O’Keefe, D. (1980). Migraine and tension-type headache: A meta-analytic review. Behavior Therapy, 11, 613-631.
Carmen, J. (2004). Passive infrared hemoencephalography: Four years and 100 migraines. Journal of Neurotherapy, 8 (3), 23-51.
Goslin, R., Gray, R., McCrory, D., Eberlin, K., Tulsky, J., & Hasselblad, V. (1999).Behavioral and physical treatments for migraine headache. (Technical Review 2.2). Prepared for the Agency for Health care Policy and Research under contract No. 290-94-2025. (NTIS Accession No. 127946).
Penzien, D., Rains, J., & Andrasik, F. (2002). Behavioral management of recurrent headache: Three decades of experience and empiricism. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 27 (2), 163-181.
Siniatchkin, M., Hierundar, A., Kropp, P., Khunert, R., Gerber, W., & Staphani, U. (2000). Self-regulation of slow cortical potentials in children with migraine: An exploratory study. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 25, 13-32, in press. Epub ahead of print retrieved March 14, 2010 from http://www.springerlink.com/content/787123414m832271