Behavioral therapy for chronic migraines is more cost-effective than prescription-drug treatment in the long run and has long lasting benefits, a new study has found.
Behavioural approaches include relaxation training, hypnosis and biofeedback.
Long-time behavioural therapy researcher and practitioner Dr. Donald Penzien said the costs of prescription prophylactic drugs - the kind chronic migraine sufferers take every day to prevent onset - may not seem much even at several dollars a day.
"But those costs keep adding up with additional doctor visits and more prescriptions," noted Penzien, professor of psychiatry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and co-author of the study.
"The cost of behavioural treatment is front-loaded. You go to a number of treatment sessions but then that's it. And the benefits last for years," he added.
The study compared the costs over time of several types of behavioural treatments with prescription-drug treatments.
The researchers found that after six months, the cost of minimal-contact behavioural treatment was competitive with pharmacologic treatments using drugs costing 50 cents or less a day.
Minimal-contact treatment is when a patient sees a therapist a few times but largely practices the behavioural techniques at home, aided by literature or audio recordings.
After one year, the minimal-contact method was nearly 500 dollars cheaper than pharmacologic treatment.
"We have a whole armamentarium of behavioural treatments and their efficacy has been proven. But headache sufferers are only getting a tip of these options," Dr. Timothy Houle, associate professor of anaesthesiology and neurology at Wake Forest University, and the study's principal investigator, said.
"One reason is people think behavioural treatment costs a lot. Now with this study, we know that the costs are actually comparable, if not cheaper, in the long run," he said.
The study was published in the June issue of the journal Headache.