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Psychological Treatments for Pain

Even though your headaches aren’t “all in your head,” your mind can be a powerful tool for easing them. A study shows that biofeedback or cognitive-behavioral therapy can reduce back pain by about 30%. I assume that headache sufferers could have similar results.

Biofeedback has long been recommended to treat migraine and tension-type headaches, but studies show that it is not helpful for cluster headaches. This article from the Robbins Headache Clinic‘s website is a little technical, but is the best explanation I’ve found on why and how biofeedback treats headaches.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy provided greater relief to participants in the back pain study than did biofeedback. According to the article, this approach “teaches patients to divert their attention from pain and to think about it in a less alarming manner.” Since cognitive-behavioral therapy works to change overall thinking patterns, I wonder if it, unlike biofeedback, could be helpful for cluster headache sufferers.

I know I shouldn’t, but I still balk at such treatments (like with hypnosis). As if my headaches would be proven to be psychological if I were able to use my mind to relieve them. Yet I’ve been doing relaxation exercises during migraines for years. Like it or not, my mind has been involved the whole time.

Do you do biofeedback or other relaxation techniques? What does or doesn’t work for you?

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