Headache relief meditation and science are coming together to prove the benefits of meditation in reducing migraine frequency. Science yearns to explore and discover new things by doing experiments.
Scientists and Doctors have discovered significant differences in the brains of regular meditators compared to non-meditators.
Hale and Evans (2009) say that when we are truly relaxed, both mentally
and physically, “there are changes in the brain wave pattern until it is
predominately located and fixed with the alpha state.”
In this alpha state, the brain triggers chemicals known as
endorphins. Endorphins have frequently been called “nature’s very own
One of the easiest ways to achieve this is though meditation. Thanks to headache relief meditation and science discoveries, we know that “there is also a real physical benefit, as these endorphins boost and recharge the immune system, helping you to fight off all kinds of infections.”
Endorphins increase with both excitement and pain but are also responsible for pain reduction. When a nerve impulse reaches the spinal cord, the body signals to release more endorphins to prevent the nerve cells from releasing more pain signals. After an injury or accident, it’s what gives us time to take necessary actions.
However, people who experience chronic pain have been proven to have lower endorphins than those who are typically pain free. Consequently, our migraine brains get the message that there is pain in the head but it is very possible that there are not enough endorphins to put a stop to it.
Dr. Herbert Benson from Harvard Medical School has been studying
meditation as it relates to mind body medicine since the early 1970s.
He is helping us layman understand the connection between meditation and
He has written a number of books now, but the one that stands out
for me is the one he co-authored with Miriam Klipper called The
Dr. Benson has long been proving that we have a physiological reaction that is quite opposite to our commonly well known innate fight-or-flight stress response which is what he has termed the relaxation response.
Over the past four decades, Dr. Benson’s method has been testing his theory and it has now become an effective form of therapy widely used to counteract the harmful effects of stress on our bodies.
I have some meditations in my course. Here's the link...
Dr. Benson and other researchers are now looking into how the brain changes through meditation.
He says our basic genetic structure and its activity have been measured in: yoga, mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, prayer, yoga, and tai chi.
Over an average of 9 years, headache relief meditation and science studied
comparisons on the gene activity – forty to fifty thousand genes –
surprisingly there was a significant difference. Some were acting
completely opposite – like inflammation - and were being turned down
instead of turned up. Migraine as we know is an inflammatory condition.
Dr. Benson continues that the cells were statistically
significantly living longer. In another study, they used controls for 8
weeks and compared the same genes activity in the same people at the
start and again at the end of 8 weeks and they got the same gene changes
in those people. Dr. Benson says this is remarkable as the statistics
are 1 in 10 billion chances for this to happen twice. This supported
his theory and the idea that the mind can control genes activity.
So then, Dr. Benson and now a number of others have hypothesized that the brain knows your healthy state – when you evoke the relaxation response – you can visualize and use your memory to recall wellness. He says the brain is still hard wired to remember wellness – this is also called the placebo effect.
“You can turn on, in a positive fashion, the capabilities of your memory.” We are so lucky Dr. Benson studies meditation and science together, so I can now relate it to headache relief meditation.
There are so many ways to find headache relief meditation information.
According to Carey Goldberg, a Boston Globe Newspaper Staff member, in the article The Power of Om dated November 21, 2005, "meditation research is coming of age, as neuroscientists measure surprising benefits."
This article is now
somewhat dated, but the facts are still valid.
The article cites a few studies that validate not only the health
benefits of meditation but also more, what I call, headache relief
meditation and science, about the brain. A study done by the
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers who scanned the brains of 20
people who meditated regularly, found that the "four regions of cortex,
the rind of the brain, associated with higher functions like memory and
decision making were thicker than in 15 subjects who didn't meditate."
They also found that the one area of the cortex aged less in
comparison to those control individuals who did not meditate. So then,
what this means is that this study provided evidence that the brain
structure was indeed altered by “western-style meditation practice.”
On a more practical and objective level, other researchers
reported that "people who reached deeper states of relaxation exhaled
more nitric oxide, a gas known to relax the smooth muscles in arteries,
and aid blood flow" by using a device that measures an individual’s
In another study done by Wachholtz and Pargament (2008) cited in
an article written by Cathy Wong (2012) in Alternative medicine
about.com, findings were that regular meditation reduced migraine
frequency and increased pain tolerance when compared to the control
group of participants. This study monitored 83 migraine patients for
In fact, this study supported the theory that practicing any
stress management techniques on a regular basis may help reduce your
migraine occurrence. The study, as most studies do, said more needs to
be researched in this area and that stress management alone should not
be used for migraine pain management.
Norman Doidge, M.D. in his book The Brain that Changes Itself says that "even leisure activities change our brain, meditators and meditation teachers have a thicker insula, a part of the cortex activated by paying close attention."
Cynthia Perkins, a fellow migraine sufferer, identifies individual body functions associated with migraines, stress and our brains. [6 p.14]
"Using neuroimagery on the brain it has been found that mindfulness stimulates the frontal lobes of the brain which increases our stress reducing neurotransmitters like: dopamine, serotonin, GABA, endorphins and enkephalins, and reduces our primary stress inducing neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, that sets off the stress response system." [6 p.14]
I don’t know about you, but I definitely go into fight response
before a migraine and my anxiety levels increase significantly! Your poor body can be in a constant state of stress just from the threat of
the next migraine attack.
"Although pain is experienced in many different areas of the
body, pain of any kind is regulated in the brain and influenced by the
autonomic nervous system." [6 p.21]
"The crucial point you want to be aware of in regard to the autonomic nervous system is that it becomes dysfunctional for a variety of contributing factors, which may include but is not limited to: emotional trauma, war, poverty, violence, natural disasters, loss of a loved one or any great loss, environmental toxins, poor diet, sugar, caffeine, nicotine, drugs, alcohol, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic problems like hypoglycemia, excessive oxidative stress, hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances, emotional stress, structural disorders like TMJ, food sensitivities, Candida, yeast infections, parasites, any physical trauma like a sports injury, car accident or tooth extraction, chronic stress of any kind and even lack of meaning and purpose in your life." [6 pp. 21-22]
If stress is a migraine trigger for you, this is one way to avoid it more often in your life.
Hope this helps make sense of it all,
References for Headache Relief Meditation and Science:
1. Benson, H. M.D. (1975) The Relaxation Response. Harpers Collins Publishers: NY.
2. Doidge, N. M.D. (2007) The Brain That Changes Itself. Penguin Books: USA. p. 290.
3. eHow.com (2012) What Happens to the Brain When You Get A Headache. [Online], Available online at: http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4965875_what-happens-brain-headache.html
4. Goldberg, Carey (2005) The Power of Om. Globe Newspaper Company, Nov.21, 2005 Issue. [Online], Available at: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/health_science/articles/2005/11/21/the_power_of_om/?p1=MEWell_Pos3.
5. Hale, G. and Evans, M. (2009) Feng Shui: Mind and Body, Spirit and Home. Anness Publishing Ltd.: London. p. 490.
6. Perkins, C. (2012) Mindfulness Over Migraines. Cynthia Perkins Self Published: USA.
7. Wachholtz, A.B., and Pargament, K.I. (2008) Migraines and Meditation: Does Spirituality Matter?" J Behav Med. Vol 31(4). pp. 351-66. [Online], Available online at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18551362 Accessed June 14, 2016.
8. Wong, C for Alternative Medicine (2012) Stopping Migraines with Stress Management. [Online], Available at: http://altmedicine.about.com/od/headache/a/migraines_stress.htm
Headache Relief Meditation Updated Apr. 5, 2019