March 23 2010
Meditation may assist headaches: new study
ancient practice of meditation could soon become a modern therapy to
UniSA researchers will investigate the effects of mindfulness meditation on headaches, which affect up to 80 per cent of the population.
Lead researcher Dr Stuart Cathcart said headaches were associated with significant socio-economic cost through loss of employment productivity and cost to the health care system, as well as significant reduction in personal quality of life.
“Headache is a really common condition,” Dr Cathcart said.
“While up to 80 per cent of people get occasional headaches, six per cent are chronic headache sufferers, getting headaches more than 15 days per month.
“Chronic tension headache is in the World Health Organisation’s top 10 ranking of illness by disability. Improved understanding and treatment of chronic tension headache is a critical and urgent health issue.”
Dr Cathcart said most headache sufferers self-medicated with over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol and codeine. The long term use of opiate based medications such as codeine is associated with development of dependence and decreased effectiveness over time.
“The current treatment is problematic and we need a better solution,” he said.
Dr Cathcart said the bulk or research evidence now showed that headache was not caused by muscular tension as previously thought, but rather, involves increased pain sensitivity in the central nervous system.
“We have recently discovered that stress contributes to headache by aggravating increased pain sensitivity in headache sufferers,” he said.
“We also know that meditation can reduce stress and pain sensitivity, so we’re interested to see the effects of meditation for headache sufferers.
“We will be using mindfulness meditation, which involves paying attention to one’s moment-to-moment perceptions, emotions and sensations in a non-judgemental, accepting and non-reactive way.”
The pilot study is a collaborative effort involving researchers from UniSA’s School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy; School of Health Sciences; and School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences.
The researchers are looking for people aged 18 to 65 who suffer from headaches to take part in the study, however participants must not have any other pain conditions (such as back pain) and must have no major medical or psychiatric conditions.
Participants will receive a free place in a meditation course especially designed for treating headaches. The course comprises six one-hour group sessions, conducted two evenings per week, for three weeks. Participants will also receive a free meditation CD and manual for home use.
Anyone interested can phone Dr Stuart Cathcart on 8302 4887 or Dr Maarten Immink on 8302 2675.
Contact for interview
Dr Stuart Cathcart mobile 0438 002 151
- Kelly Stone office (08) 8302 0963 mobile 0417 861 832 email firstname.lastname@example.org