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This smartphone app helps reduce migraine: Study

The RELAXaHEAD app guides patients through progressive muscle relaxation

This smartphone app helps reduce migraine: Study

New York

Researchers have developed a smartphone-based relaxation technique which reduces headache in people who are suffering from migraine.

The RELAXaHEAD app guides patients through progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) -- a type of behavioural therapy in which patients alternately relax and tense different muscle groups to reduce stress.

The study, published in the journal Nature Digital Medicine, evaluated 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.

"Our study offers evidence that patients may pursue behavioural therapy if it is easily accessible, they can do it on their own time and it is affordable," said Mia Minen, Assistant Professor at the New York University.

"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," Minen said.

To see if an app might increase compliance, the research team analysed app use by 51 migraine patients, all of whom owned smartphones.

For the study, participants were asked to use the app for 90 days and to keep a daily record of the frequency and severity of their headaches, while the app kept track of how long and often patients used PMR.

During the research, on average, participants had 13 headache days per month. Thirty-nine per cent of the patients also reported having anxiety and 30 per cent had depression.

PMR therapy utilising the RELAXaHEAD app dropped to 51 per cent after six weeks, and to 29 per cent after three months, said the researchers.

"The study results suggest that accessible smartphone technologies can effectively teach patients lifelong skills needed to manage their migraines," Minen said.

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