Jun 16, 2019 | Updated: 11:54 AM EDT

Scientists Develop a Mobile App to Counteract Migraine

Jun 11, 2019 08:30 AM EDT

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Migraine
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Persons affected by migraine consist of over 36 million in the United States. A new mobile application called RELAXaHEAD was developed by NYU School of Medicine researchers to alleviate the number of headaches experienced by migraine sufferers.

A new study reveals that affected persons who used the app at least twice a week reduced the number of headaches they experiece in a month. The app utilized progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR that allows patients to reduce stress through alternately relaxing and tensing different muscle groups.

The work is the first in its field to evaluate the clinical effectiveness of an app for treating migraine and adding an app to standard therapies (such as oral medications) under the supervision of a doctor. The results were published in the Nature Digital Medicine

"Our study offers evidence that patients may pursue behavioral therapy if it is easily accessible, they can do it on their own time, and it is affordable," says study senior investigator and neurologist Mia Minen, MD, MPH. "Clinicians need to rethink their treatment approach to migraine because many of the accepted therapies, although proven to be the current, best course of treatment, aren't working for all lifestyles."

Migraine sufferers experience moderate to severe head pain with nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Drug treatments and behavioral therapy are the doctor's recommendation for treating migraine. However, expense and inconvenience do not permit some patients to pursue therapy,says Minen, an assistant professor of population health and chief of headache research at NYU Langone Health. "Oftentimes they end up only taking medications," she says.

The researchers conducted data analysis of the use of the mobile app by 51 confirmed NYU Lanone Health migraine patients. These patients owned smartphones. The app was used for 90 days and patients kept a daily record of the frequency and severity of their headaches. The app recorded the length of time and frequency of the patient's use of the PMR.

Study participants, on average, had 13 headache days per month, ranging between four and 31. Thirty-nine percent of patients in the study also reported having anxiety, and 30 percent had depression.

There was a fifty-one percent drop in the PMR therapy that utilized the RELAXaHEAD app and to 29 percent after three months. There was an anticipation that the users will gradually decrease in their app usage by the researchers.

Minen says that taken as a whole, the study results suggest that accessible smartphone technologies "can effectively teach patients lifelong skills needed to manage their migraines."

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