Yoga therapy may be an effective treatment for migraine, according to study findings published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Migraine, the second-leading cause of disability worldwide, can reduce an individual’s ability to study or work, and can even contribute to their experiences of depression and anxiety. Most individuals discontinue medications because the treatments are ineffective or have adverse effects, and one-third of patients have turned to opioids. The effective use of yoga therapy for migraine has produced conflicting results.

The current study researchers in China conducted a meta-analysis to assess the efficacy of yoga therapy as a treatment for patients with migraine.


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They searched PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, EBSCO, and Cochrane databases from inception through March 2022 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared yoga therapy with standard treatment for patients with migraine, under the International Headache Society’s International Classification of Headache Disorders.

The researchers identified 6 RCTs, which were published between 2007 and 2021 and together included 445 participants. Five studies were conducted in Asia, and 1 study took place in the US. Each study had high quality, the researchers reported. Jadad Scale scores for each study varied from 3 to 4.

Compared with control group individuals, those with migraine who participated in yoga therapy tended to experience decreased pain intensity (SMD, -1.21; 95% CI=-2.17 to -0.25; P =.01). Heterogeneity, I2, among the studies was 94%.

After excluding 1 study, the researchers found that yoga therapy remained associated with substantially decreased pain intensity (SMD, -0.53; 95% CI, -0.76 to -0.31; P <.00001) and heterogeneity decreased to 1% (P =.39).

Compared with control individuals, participants in yoga therapy were more likely to experience decreased frequency of headaches (SMD, -1.43; 95% CI, -2.23 to -0.64; P =.004), headache duration (SMD, -1.03; 95% CI, -1.85 to -0.21; P =.01), Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) score (SMD, 2.28; 95% CI, -3.81 to -0.75; P =.003), and Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) score (SMD, 0.52; 95% CI, -0.77 to -0.27; P <.0001).

Study limitations included a small sample size, heterogeneity, inability to conduct “sham” yoga therapy, and generalization outside Asian populations.

The researchers concluded that “Yoga therapy demonstrated the ability to treat migraine attack, and it should be recommended with caution due to heterogeneity.”

Reference

Long C, Ye J, Chen M, et al. Effectiveness of yoga therapy for migraine treatment: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. Am J Emergency Medicine. Published online May 2, 2022. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2022.04.050