Non-pharmacological self-management for people living with migraine or tension-type headache: a systematic review

The objective of this study was to assess the effect of non-pharmacological self-management interventions against usual care, and to explore different components and delivery methods within those interventions. This was achieve through a systematic review of articles including people living with migraine and/or tension-type headache, and the impact of  non-pharmacological educational or psychological self-management interventions; excluding biofeedback and physical therapy.

The authors found a small overall effect for the superiority of self-management interventions over usual care, with a standardised mean difference (SMD) of −0.36 (−0.45 to −0.26) for pain intensity; −0.32 (−0.42 to −0.22) for headache-related disability, 0.32 (0.20 to 0.45) for quality of life and a moderate effect on mood (SMD=0.53 (−0.66 to −0.40)). We did not find an effect on headache frequency (SMD=−0.07 (−0.22 to 0.08)).

Assessment of components and characteristics suggests a larger effect on pain intensity in interventions that included explicit educational components (−0.51 (−0.68 to −0.34) vs −0.28 (−0.40 to −0.16)); mindfulness components (−0.50 (−0.82 to −0.18) vs 0.34 (−0.44 to −0.24)) and in interventions delivered in groups vs one-to-one delivery (0.56 (−0.72 to −0.40) vs −0.39 (−0.52 to −0.27)) and larger effects on mood in interventions including a cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT) component with an SMD of −0.72 (−0.93 to −0.51) compared with those without CBT −0.41 (−0.58 to −0.24).

Overall the authors found that self-management interventions for migraine and tension-type headache are more effective than usual care in reducing pain intensity, mood and headache-related disability, but have no effect on headache frequency. Preliminary findings also suggest that including CBT, mindfulness and educational components in interventions, and delivery in groups may increase effectiveness.