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Thermal Biofeedback and Migraines

Thermal biofeedback is an effective technique used by many migraine patients to reduce the pain intensity and frequency of their headaches. This is especially true of pediatric migraineurs, particularly those who have entered puberty. Pregnant migraine sufferers can doubly benefit from biofeedback. It enables them to avoid potentially dangerous medication during their pregnancy. Second, a 1996 study showed an 80% reduction in headache frequency and intensity among pregnant migraineurs. Thermal biofeedback, sometimes referred to as psycho-physiological feedback, is a treatment modality used to instruct people in the conscious control of their body temperature.

Patients achieve control through a combination of visualization (guided imagery), voluntary relaxation, and mechanical feedback. A 1983 study tested the effects of three different medication-free techniques, thermal biofeedback, frontalis EMG biofeedback, and relaxation training, on migraineurs. Patients using each technique experienced improvement in their migraines, but the thermal feedback patients appeared to experience the greatest success rate and were more able to sustain the effect long term. Patients are attached to a temperature sensor, usually on the hand, during instruction in thermal biofeedback. This sensor allows them to see the effect of their attempts to consciously control their temperature and change their methodology as needed to achieve the desired result.

Training in thermal biofeedback is usually provided by a psychologist or an alternative medicine provider in an office setting, and then practiced by the individual alone. Patients interested in learning this technique should screen instructors thoroughly since there is currently no licensing requirement for those who provide it. At-home thermal biofeedback practice is frequently more successful in children because they tend to be more imaginative than adults. To utilize this treatment successfully, patients must be very motivated and diligent in practicing it. Some adults can only achieve thermal control when guided by an instructor and are unable to practice the technique alone. .


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