In a study aimed at combating frequent, disabling migraine headaches, the combination of preventive medication and behavioral changes offered significant relief for 77 percent of the individuals.
Though daily preventive medication and behavioral techniques individually have been shown to improve headache pain, the new research is the first controlled study to assess if the combination of the two types of interventions might bring more relief to people whose debilitating migraines can interfere with career, social and family life, said lead author Kenneth Holroyd, an Ohio University Distinguished Professor of psychology.
The new study collected data daily from 232 adult participants for 16 months-a longer duration than usual for evaluations of new therapies.
"Migraines are a long-term disorder and we wanted to closely monitor participants every day for at least 16 months to find out if these treatments keep working over time," Holroyd said.
Participants needed to experience at least three debilitating migraines per 30 days, even when using the best acute migraine medication (which is taken when a migraine first occurs), to qualify for the project.
On average, participants recorded 5.5 migraines and 8.5 days with migraine per 30 days, despite using the acute migraine therapy best suited to their needs.
Participants who continued to experience severe migraines were assigned randomly to have one of four treatments added to their existing therapy.
One group received the combination of preventive medication (beta blockers) and behavioral migraine management, one received only the medication, one received only the behavioral therapy, and one served as a control group. Seventy-nine percent of the study participants were women, and subjects had a mean age of 38.
The combined therapy group showed the greatest improvement in the number of migraines, days with migraine and in quality of life, the researchers report.
In comparison, the other three groups experienced modest improvements, a finding that's been reported previously by studies of those individual techniques.
The study has been published this week in the British Medical Journal.