EEG Biofeedback Training for Tension Headaches and Migraines
Over the last five years of clinical work in EEG biofeedback training, it has become apparent that the technique can be extremely helpful in the remediation of headache syndromes. This includes both conventional headaches often referred to as “tension” headaches, and also migraine headaches. With respect to migraine headaches, two types are identified for EEG training purposes: 1) precipitated by PMS or food allergies; and 2) precipitated by stress.
Although the EEG biofeedback training is not necessarily, or even ordinarily, done during the symptomatic phase, the training can have an immediate effect on headaches. Thus it is often our experience that a person with a conventional headache may have it eliminated, or significantly reduced in severity, within a half hour session. To a lesser degree, this is also true of migraine headaches, for which we have experienced roughly 50% incidence of reduced severity within a 30-minute training session.
EEG training can therefore induce a change in physiological state which causes the headache to “melt away”. This immediate benefit may be appreciated, and may be taken as an indication that the training is effective. However, the objective is to train the brain so that it has a higher threshold for headache onset in general. That is, the training is aimed at improved self-regulation, so that the brain is much less vulnerable subsequently to the factors which may have triggered headaches previously. This is a learning process, which requires a certain number of training sessions. With a successful outcome, however, the trainee may experience an essentially headache-free existence. Many graduates have reported being free of migraine headaches for several years after undertaking the EEG training.
There are causes of headaches which we do not expect to impact with this training. For example, “sinus headaches”, in which congestion may be the precipitate cause of the headache, no remedy is to be found or expected in EEG biofeedback. One must deal with the underlying cause instead. However, many headaches can be thought of as stress-related, particularly if we take the word “stress” in its inclusive sense, namely that the brain is in a less than optimal state because of “stressors” in the person’s life. In these instances, teaching the brain to self-regulate better affords it a higher stress tolerance.
With conventional headaches, a complete training regimen may require only about ten training sessions. For migraine headaches, the training regimen may be somewhat longer. In all cases, testing with the T.O.V.A. is helpful in order to assess the person’s attentional skills. Attention is one of the most fundamental of brain processes. Assessing how the person pays attention has been found to be also a good indicator of status of brain self-regulation, as well as of the appropriate EEG training protocol to effect remediation. The success rate for headaches has been extremely high. More than 80% of persons who complete the training regimen report remediation of headache syndromes.