Study Suggests Music Therapy May Benefit Migraineurs

A small pilot study revealed that music therapy may help reduce migraine frequency among patients with episodic migraine.

Results of a pilot study revealed that music intervention may significantly reduce migraine attack frequency, although well-controlled clinical trials are warranted to better understand the efficiency of this intervention. Findings were published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine.

Acute-drug medications are typically used to help alleviate physical discomfort associated with migraine, whereas “for preventive purposes, maintenance therapy with medication is used to reduce the frequency of crises,” researchers explained. Treatment options are also available to help improve the psychological well-being of migraineurs.

Previous research has found that music therapy significantly improved sleep quality in older adults and has proved useful in reducing patients’ pain in a number of settings. “However, research has yet to explore the potential benefit of a music intervention for patients with migraine headaches,” authors said.

To address this knowledge gap, researchers assessed the outcomes of a patient-controlled, 3-month music intervention in individuals diagnosed with migraine who used the Music Care smartphone application.

All study participants had episodic migraine (<15 days of migraine episodes per month) with or without aura. A total of 20 migraineurs (17 female) with a mean age of 42 years were eligible to complete the intervention.

“During the 3-month patient-controlled home music intervention, participants were to complete 1-2 sessions of music intervention per day, with a minimum of 15 sessions per month,” researchers wrote. Participants were also allowed to freely adjust the length of music and choose their preferred style from different sequences of instrumental music.

The application utilizes the “U” sequence, which is designed to gradually relax listeners and is implemented using a musical sequence of 20 minutes, divided into 5 different musical pieces at 3 to 4 minutes each.

Following completion of the intervention, analyses revealed:

  • Patients reported a significant reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks (MDiff = –2.8; P = .01).
  • 10 patients reported a 50% reduction in the frequency of migraine attacks.
  • Treatment was associated with significant reduction in medication intake (MDiff = –2.85; P = .02), the duration of migraine attacks (MDiff = –5.45; P = .002), anxiety (MDiff = –1.65; P = .02), and depression (MDiff = –2.45; P = .002).

“The particular impact of the ‘U’ technique is not isolated to key factors directly related to migraine attacks such as pain and duration of attacks, but also on key negative psychological factors that can often result from the experience of migraine attacks,” authors explained.

The Music Care app may serve as an easy and cost-effective option to reduce migraine among both those who seek medical treatment and those who are unable to seek medical help for their condition due to cost concerns, they noted.

Future investigations ought to include a control group for comparison purposes and a larger sample of patients.

“By decreasing the frequency of migraine episodes by 50% (in 50% of the sample), the ‘U’ sequence seems to be an effective treatment for migraine headaches, thereby highlighting the importance of receptive music techniques in music therapy in decreasing the debilitating nature of migraines,” the researchers concluded.


Parlongue G, Cerdan EV, Koenig J, and Williams DP. Smartphone based music intervention in the treatment of episodic migraine headaches - a pilot trial. Complement Ther Med. Published online September 30, 2021. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102779