Mindfulness in migraine: A narrative review

Rebecca Erwin Wells*, Elizabeth K. Seng, Robert R. Edwards, David E. Victorson, Charles R. Pierce, Lauren Rosenberg, Vitaly Napadow, Zev Schuman-Olivier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Introduction: Migraine is the second leading cause of disability worldwide, yet many patients are unable to tolerate, benefit from, or afford pharmacological treatment options. Non-pharmacological migraine therapies exist, especially to reduce opioid use, which represents a significant unmet need. Mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) have potential as a non-pharmacological treatment for migraine, primarily through the development of flexible attentional capacity across sensory, cognitive, and emotional experiences. Areas covered: The authors review efficacy and potential mechanisms of MBIs for migraine, including mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Expert opinion: While most mindfulness research studies for migraine to date have been pilot trials, which are small and/or lacked rigor, initial evidence suggests there may be improvements in overall headache-related disability and psychological well-being. Many research questions remain to help target the treatment to patients most likely to benefit, including the ideal dosage, duration, delivery method, responder characteristics, and potential mechanisms and biomarkers. A realistic understanding of these factors is important for patients, providers, and the media. Mindfulness will not ‘cure’ migraine; however, mindfulness may be an important tool as part of a comprehensive treatment approach to help patients ‘mindfully’ engage in valued life activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-225
Number of pages19
JournalExpert Review of Neurotherapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 3 2020


  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • integrative medicine
  • meditation
  • migraine
  • mind-body medicine
  • mindfulness
  • mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
  • mindfulness-based intervention
  • mindfulness-based stress reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • General Neuroscience


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