If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from severe migraines that are unresponsive to medication or other treatments, you know how debilitating and isolating they can be.
But what if the key to finding relief isn’t in a pill, but rather in your own mind and life experiences?
The vast majority of migraine sufferers have normal MRIs of the brain, indicating that migraines are not structural disorders of the brain or head. Instead, it is essential to understand how the brain handles pain.
All pain is generated by the brain, which can be activated by two types of stimuli: physical or emotional injury. Both types of injuries activate the danger areas of the brain, such as the amygdala, to create the pain we feel.
If the danger signal is not activated, we will not experience pain. Epigenetics, the study of how our environment influences which genes are turned on or turned off, plays a role in the development of migraines.
Minimal genetic predisposition
While genetic predispositions may exist in many people for migraines, the extent to which genes influence outcomes is much less than that of diseases like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.
Instead, environmental factors and the stresses of daily life play a significant role in whether or not the brain activates migraines.
Many patients and doctors view migraines as being caused by hormonal changes or by weather, smells, light, or foods. These factors may trigger migraines, but recent studies have shown that many of these triggers are not reproducible, and avoiding them may be counterproductive in the long run.
Emotional pain and physical pain
A combination of stressful life events and unprocessed emotions can cause migraines and other related conditions such as chronic tension headaches, pelvic and abdominal pain syndromes, chronic neck and back pain, and fibromyalgia.
All of these conditions are associated with the early onset of adverse childhood events, which sensitizes the danger signal in the brain.
The link between emotional pain and physical pain has been established in several studies.
In one study published in the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research” in 2019, researchers found that psychological distress was associated with migraine frequency, disability, and pain intensity.
The study concluded that addressing psychological distress through psychological interventions may improve migraine outcomes.
Another study published in the “Journal of Pain” in 2018 investigated the relationship between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and migraine in a sample of adults
The study found that ACEs were significantly associated with an increased risk of migraine and that addressing the emotional effects of ACEs may be a useful strategy for preventing migraines.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
One approach that has been effective in treating migraines is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy that helps patients identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to their symptoms.
In a study published in the “Journal of Psychosomatic Research” in 2017, researchers found that this approach was effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines in a group of patients.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBS)
Another approach that has gained popularity in recent years is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a form of meditation that involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment.
In a study published in the “Journal of Behavioral Medicine” in 2019, researchers found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines in a group of patients.
While medication may be the first line of treatment, it is not always effective, particularly for those with severe and chronic symptoms.
Looking inward and understanding the relationship between the mind and the body may hold the key to recovery.
Addressing emotional pain through psychological interventions may be effective strategies for preventing and treating migraines.
Sarno Clinic advances the Dr. John Sarno method for healing chronic pain.