- A study of 51 patients demonstrated that a smartphone application for a progressive muscle relaxation technique is a feasible method for self-management of migraine headache, New York University School of Medicine researchers said Tuesday.
- Migraine sufferers who used the app, called Relaxahead, at least twice a week had an average of four fewer headache days per month, the study found. The app was developed by a team from NYU that partnered with Boston-based digital medicine tracking company Irody, in which NYU Langone holds a financial interest.
- The app is not yet publicly available. The study results were published online in the journal Nature Digital Medicine.
Progressive muscle relaxation, or PMR, is a form of behavioral therapy in which patients relax and tense different muscle groups to reduce stress. Migraine patients typically are prescribed drug treatments and behavioral therapy, but do not use the therapy because of cost and inconvenience, the NYU researchers said.
Previous studies have demonstrated that office-based behavioral therapy reduced the frequency and intensity of migraine. The NYU team was interested in seeing if a smartphone app would increase compliance with non-pharmacological approaches to migraine management.
More than 36 million people in the United States experience migraine headaches, characterized by moderate to severe head pain often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.
Participants in the NYU study had an average of 13 headache days per month, ranging between four and 31. They were asked to use the app for 90 days and to keep a daily record of the frequency and severity of their headaches. The app tracked how long and often patients used PMR. Participants averaged about 11 minutes of PMR on the days that it was used.
The researchers concluded that the app demonstrated the feasibility of app-based PMR in the low-cost study.
"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," study senior investigator and neurologist Mia Minen said.
Use of the app in the study declined to 51% after six weeks and 29% after three months. The study authors are working on ways to encourage more frequent sessions and to introduce the app into their clinical practices.
Funding for the study was provided by the American Academy of Neurology, the American Brain Foundation and grants from HHS and the National Institutes of Health.