Underuse of Behavioral Treatments for Headache: a Narrative Review Examining Societal and Cultural Factors

Donna Langenbahn, Yuka Matsuzawa, Yuen Shan Christine Lee, Felicia Fraser, Donald B. Penzien, Naomi M. Simon, Richard B. Lipton, Mia T. Minen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

Migraine affects over 40 million Americans and is the world’s second most disabling condition. As the majority of medical care for migraine occurs in primary care settings, not in neurology nor headache subspecialty practices, healthcare system interventions should focus on primary care. Though there is grade A evidence for behavioral treatment (e.g., biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation techniques) for migraine, these treatments are underutilized. Behavioral treatments may be a valuable alternative to opioids, which remain widely used for migraine, despite the US opioid epidemic and guidelines that recommend against them. Identifying and removing barriers to the use of headache behavioral therapy could help reduce the disability as well as the personal and social costs of migraine. These techniques will have their greatest impact if offered in primary care settings to the lower socioeconomic status groups at greatest risk for migraine. We review the societal and cultural challenges that impose barriers to optimal use of non-pharmacological treatment services. These barriers include insufficient knowledge of migraine/headache behavioral treatments and insufficient availability of clinicians trained in non-pharmacological treatment delivery; limited access in underserved communities; financial burden; and stigma associated with both headache and mental health diagnoses and treatment. For each barrier, we discuss potential approaches to minimizing its effect and thus enhancing non-pharmacological treatment utilization. Case Example A 25-year-old graduate student with a prior history of headaches in college is attending school in the evenings while working a full-time job. Now, his headaches have significant nausea and photophobia. They are twice weekly and are disabling enough that he is unable to complete homework assignments. He does not understand why the headaches occur on Saturdays when he pushes through all week to get through his examinations that take place on Friday evenings. He tried two different migraine preventive medications, but neither led to the 50% reduction in headache days his doctor had hoped for. His doctor had suggested cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) before initiating the medications, but he had been too busy to attend the appointments, and the challenges in finding an in-network provider proved difficult. Now with the worsening headaches, he opted for the CBT and by the fifth week had already noted improvements in his headache frequency and intensity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • barriers to care
  • behavioral interventions
  • headache
  • migraine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Underuse of Behavioral Treatments for Headache: a Narrative Review Examining Societal and Cultural Factors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this