Behavioral therapy best for migraine

Compared with medication, behavioral therapy approaches such as relaxation, hypnosis and biofeedback are more cost-effective for chronic migraines in long term.

University of Mississippi researchers compared the cost of several types of behavioral treatment with preventive prescription drugs.

According to their findings, the cost of minimal-contact behavioral therapy was competitive with that of the medical treatments after six months.

After one year, using minimal-contact therapy methods for migraines were almost 500 dollars cheaper than drug treatment, scientists wrote in the June issue of Headache.

In a minimal-contact treatment, the patient practices behavioral techniques at home, getting help from textbooks or audio tapes. She/he only meets a therapist a few times a year.

Researchers failed to compare the effectiveness of the methods or to calculate the overtime cost of each drug, considering its various dosage and price. They calculated the per-day cost of each method based on the fees charged by the physicians and psychologists.

According to their calculations, sessions arranged with a psychologist in clinic, costing more than the drugs, were the most expensive part of the behavioral therapy. After about five months, however, the price became competitive. After a year, they were cheaper than all other methods except for drugs costing 50 cents or less a day.

While the present study showed behavioral treatments to be both effective and cost benefit, many chronic migraine sufferers still prefer taking medications, saying the behavioral methods cost a lot, said study co-author Donald Penzien.

"But those costs keep adding up with additional doctor visits and more prescriptions. The cost of behavioral treatment is front-loaded. You go to a number of treatment sessions but then that's it. And the benefits last for years," he added.

SJM/PKH