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Experimental mobile app helps manage migraines

A smartphone-based relaxation app could help migraine sufferers reduce the number of headaches they get each month, a small study suggests.

Minen and colleagues created RELAXaHEAD, an app based on the technique of progressive muscle relaxation, a proven method of migraine prevention, the authors note. The study team analyzed whether patients recruited from a neurology clinic would use the app regularly and whether they’d have fewer headache days.

Using the app twice a week was associated with an average of four fewer headache days per month, according to the report in Nature Digital Medicine.

Migraines affect about 1 in 6 adults in the U.S., with women most at risk.

On average, participants used the app on 22 days per month, for about 11 minutes per day. Roughly half used it once per week and a third used it two or more times per week. Overall, those who used the app twice per week had four fewer headache days the following month, and those who used it once per week had two fewer headaches days. Use of the app tended to drop over time.

Patients with higher depression scores were less likely to use the daily headache diary, and those with higher anxiety scores were more likely to use it. The researchers have received inquiries about the app from patients with migraines outside the NYU Langone system, she noted. Although it was created as a research tool, Minen’s team is exploring ways to expand access to the app or include it in office visits. They’re also studying whether the app can help healthcare providers who don’t know where to refer patients with migraines who want behavioral therapy.

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