Progressive Muscle Rest From Smartphone App Accepted For Migraines

A smartphone application (app) with guided progressive muscle relaxation was an acceptable form of therapy for migraines and was associated with a small to moderate decrease in migraine-related disability, according to study results published in Headache.

Increasingly, patients with migraines require accessible and effective prevention and management strategies. This study attempted to evaluate the feasibility and accessibility of progressive muscle relaxation provided through a smartphone application app for this population.

The study researchers enrolled adult patients with migraines and at least 4 headache days per month in this non-blinded pilot study. The participants were given access to the RELAXaHEAD app, which contained an electronic headache diary. They then randomly assigned patients to either a version of the app that offered progressive muscle relaxation (intervention arm; n = 77) or another version of the app that did not offer progressive muscle relaxation (control arm; n = 62).

The primary results were feasibility or adherence to the intervention and diary entries, as well as acceptance or satisfaction. Exploratory analyzes were carried out to determine whether participants had a change in MIDAS (Migraine Disability Assessment Scale) scores.

The mean age of the study population was 41.7 years (standard deviation ± 12.8 years) and 78% of the patients had moderate to severe disability. For the first 6 weeks, participants in the progressive muscle relaxation group practiced the intervention between 2 and 4 times per week (mean duration per session 11.1 ± 8.3 minutes).

Based on scores from 1 to 5 Likert, the participants stated that the app was easy to use (mean 4.3 ± 0.7). In addition, participants indicated that they would like to use the progressive muscle relaxation intervention provided by the smartphone app again (mean 4.3 ± 0.6).

Compared to patients in the control group who only used the electronic diary, those who used the progressive muscle relaxation intervention had a greater decrease in mean MIDAS scores (-8.7 versus -22.7); However, this decrease was not statistically significant (P = 0.100).

Limitations of the study were the small sample size, the inclusion of patients who had received preventive treatment (53.6%), and possible selection biases, all of which may have affected the results of the study.

The study researchers concluded that additional research studies “could investigate whether the other evidence-based Level A behavioral therapies,” such as cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback, “could be introduced into primary care migraine prevention.”

Disclosure: Several authors of the study have stated that they are part of the pharmaceutical industry. For a full list of the authors’ information, see the original reference.


Minen MT, Adhikari S., Padikkala J. et al. Smartphone-Delivered Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Primary Care Migraines: A Randomized Controlled Trial. A headache. Published online November 16, 2020. doi: 10.1111 / head.14010

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