Intensive Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Frequency and Burden of Migraine: An Unblinded Single-Arm Trial

Madhav Goyal, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite, Sharat Jain, Barbara Lee Peterlin, Megha Mehrotra, David Levine, Jason D. Rosenberg, Mary Minges, David A. Seminowicz, Daniel E. Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Preventing migraine headaches and improving the quality of life for patients with migraine remains a challenge. We hypothesized intensive meditation training would reduce the disease burden of migraine. Method: An unblinded trial was analyzed as a single cohort exposed to a silent 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat that included 100 hr of sitting meditation. Participants with chronic or episodic migraine were enrolled and followed for 1 year. The primary outcome was a change in mean monthly migraine days at 12 months from baseline. Secondary outcomes included headache frequency and intensity, acute medication use, work days missed, home meditation, sleep quality, general health, quality of life, migraine impact, positive and negative affect, perceived stress, mindfulness, and pain catastrophizing. Results: Three hundred people were screened and 58 (19%) agreed to participate and enrolled in the intensive meditation training. Forty-six participants with chronic migraine (≥ 15 headaches/month of which ≥ 8 were migraines) and 12 with episodic migraine (< 15 and ≥ 4 migraines/month) attended and 45 (78%) completed the retreat. At 12 months, the average migraine frequency was reduced by 2.7 days (from 16.6 at baseline) per 28 days (95%CI − 4.3, − 1.3) and headaches by 3.4 (20.1 at baseline) per 28 days (− 4.9, − 1.9). Fifty percent responder rate was 29% for migraine. Acute medication use dropped by an average of 2.2 days (− 3.9, − 0.5) per 28 days, and participants reported 2.3 fewer days (− 4.0, − 0.5) on which they reduced their activity due to migraines. The most striking and promising effects were in several secondary outcomes, including migraine-specific quality of life, pain catastrophizing, and perceived stress. The significant improvements observed immediately following the intervention were sustained at 12 months follow-up. Conclusions: Training in Vipassana meditation via a 10-day retreat may reduce the frequency and burden of migraine. Preregistration: NCT00663585.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-417
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • Behavioral
  • Chronic
  • Episodic
  • Headache
  • Therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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