Headaches suck. Literally. They cause pain and discomfort and drain your energy, but migraines are a totally different beast. They can trigger light sensitivity, sound sensitivity and nausea. They have the power to stop you dead in your tracks. However, researchers have found hope in an unexpected place: Your smartphone. That’s right, a new relaxation app may offer migraine sufferers some relief.
The app, developed by researchers at the NYU School of Medicine, is called RELAXaHEAD, and the aim is to guide patients through a form of behavioral therapy known as progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR. But how does RELAXaHEAD work? According to a press release, patients “alternately relax and tense different muscle groups to reduce stress,” as stress is a known migraine trigger.
PMR is not new. Physicians have been using the behavioral technique to treat migraines for years. Unfortunately, many patients do not stick with PMR — even after a doctor’s recommendation — because of its expense and inconvenience, Dr. Mia Minen, an assistant professor of population health and chief of headache research at NYU Langone Health, said. “Oftentimes they end up only taking [pain and preventative] medications.”
The good news is that RELAXaHEAD removes these obstacles. “Our study offers evidence that patients may pursue behavioral therapy if it is easily accessible, they can do it on their own time, and it is affordable,” Minen said.
That said, it is important to note the app is not a migraine cure. Study participants had, on average, 13 fewer headache days per month; however, the promise and potential it presents is great news for the 36 million Americans plagued by the condition. “Clinicians need to rethink their treatment approach to migraine because many of the accepted therapies, although proven to be the current, best course of treatment, aren’t working for all lifestyles,” Minen said.