As a reminder, I am not a medical professional. This post is for general informational and educational purposes only. Please see DWM’s full list of disclaimers and disclosures here.
Within the migraine community, chronic illness community, and entire wellness industry in general there often seems to be a war between alternative and traditional medicine. However what I can confirm for you is that there will be no place for that at Dealing With Migraine. My goal on DWM is to explore and discover all avenues for migraine relief, in addition to other pain points. Thus we arrive at meditation for migraine relief. What is it all about, what does the data show, and why should you consider adding it to your migraine management tool kit.
Health Benefits of Meditation
Before we jump into utilizing migraine meditation, I want to lay out the general health benefits of practicing meditation. According to healthline, here are some of the top benefits:
- Helps With Pain Management: This particular study found that folks who meditated had a higher ability to cope with pain and felt less pain sensations than those who didn’t meditate.
- Provides Stress Reduction: Because countless studies prove that meditating actively reduces stress (a huge migraine trigger), meditating for migraine relief is a no brainer.
- Decreases Anxiety: Studies such as this one from the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry provide evidence that meditation can lower anxiety levels. If you are like me and your migraine attacks trigger anxiety attacks (and vice versa), this is another reason to consider giving meditation a try.
- Increases Self-Awareness: There are a lot of reasons why self-awareness is a good thing, but it can be especially great for folks that deal with migraine by helping us to better identify our triggers and oncoming stress!
- Helps With Treating Addiction: This is an overall amazing benefit that I wanted to highlight! Because meditation aids in our overall mental health and strength, data has found that it also assists in decreasing alcohol cravings.
- Improves Sleep: In addition to meditation supporting folks to sleep for longer, it also makes it easier for us to fall asleep. Meditation music and guided tracks are especially useful to relax our body and release tension (whether we realize it is there or not!).
- Decreases Blood Pressure: Many folks suffer from high blood pressure and across multiple ages too. Meditation offers a hand in lowering BP by helping us to relax. As we relax mentally and physically, we work to turn on our parasympathetic nervous system which can almost force our body to slow down our blood flow.
Meditation for Migraine Relief
Now let’s talk about how all this relates to managing our migraine!
During an attack, the pain management aspect of meditation can be comforting, provide support, and actually help to lessen the pain that is often magnified by stress and anxiety. Now, do not think I would ever try to convince you that meditating during a migraine attack will take away you pain – but it can definitely help you from solely focusing on it.
Pain can mean a lot of different things for folks – anger, resentment, frustration, sadness, fear. I know for me, and many of you, that a migraine attack can be so stressful, it can simultaneously cause an anxiety attack too (fun times).
While I’ve dealt with anxiety for many years, it wasn’t until after dealing with an incredibly long and unsuspecting miscarriage, did I realize my health was a big anxiety trigger. There can be so much unknown when it comes to our health in general, but I believe this becomes magnified for folks dealing with chronic illness and other underrepresented conditions. Much of this can create feelings of isolation and mistrust, which is why community is majorly important for us.
When dealing with a terrible migraine attack, with incredible pain, it can be incredibly fearful. Because I’m not afraid to say that pain can be scary! This can instantly lead me to catastrophize (aka think of the worst possible scenarios), which can certainly lead me down the quick path to an anxiety attack.
Here is where guided meditation comes to my rescue. There are so many fantastic tracks (which I’ll share further below), that provide me with such great support, warmth, and overall protection. I remember when I first found Mindful in Minutes aka Kelly Smith, “Meditation for Anxiety.” I had been in the midst of a terrible month of migraine and anxiety attacks and Kelly’s voice felt so soothing and safe. In addition to guided meditation, there is what I refer to as its’ cousin – yoga nidra (which Kelly also includes in the podcast). Yoga nidra, which is technically a type of yoga, works to relax us as much as possible, almost to the point of falling asleep – yet still actually awake with a conscious mind. The practice is linked to many benefits most notably helping with anxiety, PTSD, and our overall mental health. I love finding and downloading new tracks so they are available whenever needed, at any time of day.
Meditation whether done daily or whenever things get hectic is a fantastic avenue to self-care and destress. As the American Migraine Foundations reaffirms, “mind-body techniques like meditation may relieve headaches by alleviating underlying stress.”
For myself, I try to meditate on a semi-regular basis, which ends up being once or twice a week. Stress is a common migraine trigger for many, including myself, which makes stress management a high priority for migraine management. Meditating surely won’t get rid of my stress entirely, but I can confidently say it makes a big impact. On an extra busy day or one with more stress than usual, I always aim to make time to meditate – even if only for 10 minutes. Whether I feel like I am clearing space in my mind or not, one thing I know is that it slows me down physically which ties into the adrenaline my body creates when feeling stressed. That is because when we are stressed, we are dealing with higher levels of cortisol aka the stress hormone.
Cortisol triggers our sympathetic nervous system otherwise known as fight or flight. When we are creating too much of this stress hormone, it can create all sorts of health issues including chronic stress and poor mental health. By incorporating self care practices like meditation, we can combat elevated levels of stress, and help to keep our cortisol levels in check.
The last thing I want to remind you is that we also need to practice compassion when it comes to self care. This means not beating ourselves up over not meditating enough or not feeling up to it some days. Meditating twice a month is better than not at all. Of course it will be more impactful to meditate regularly versus only on days we are experiencing high levels of stress, but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t be proud of yourself for doing the best that you can!
When building any new habit, tracking can be an extremely helpful act to keep ourselves aware and accountable – luckily there are many avenues to do so. There are apps, journals, and programs built into our fitness devices such as the Apple Watch that can all track daily meditation.
You may prefer to keep tabs in your planner, a notepad, or even on social media like I did last month. If you’re interested, I created a 30 day meditation challenge tracker template you can download for free HERE!
There are incredible options for guided meditations and soothing sounds for those looking for extra inspiration. Here are some of my favorites below for migraine meditation! I’ll be sure to add to this playlist as I find new ones!
Let me know your favorite meditation tracks in the comments below or send me a message!