Biofeedback in the prophylactic treatment of medication overuse headache: a pilot randomized controlled trial

Marialuisa Rausa, Daniela Palomba, Sabina Cevoli, Luana Lazzerini, Elisa Sancisi, Pietro Cortelli, Giulia Pierangeli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Medication overuse headache (MOH) is a major clinical concern and a common health risk. Recent literature stressed the need to manage chronic headache by using integrated biobehavioral approaches. Few studies evaluated how biofeedback can be useful in MOH. The aim of the study is to evaluate in a randomized, controlled, single-blind trial the effects of biofeedback associated with traditional pharmacological therapy in the prophylactic treatment of MOH. Method: Twenty-seven subjects were randomized to frontal electromyographic (EMG) biofeedback associated with prophylactic pharmacological therapy (Bfb Group) or to pharmacological treatment alone (Control Group). The primary outcome was to evaluate the number of patients that return episodic after treatment. Secondly we evaluate the effects of frontal EMG BFB on frequency of headache and analgesic intake. Changes in coping strategies and in EMG frontalis tension were also evaluated. ANOVA was performed on all the variables of interest. Results: Our results indicate that at the end of treatment the number of patients that returned episodic in the Bfb group was significantly higher than in the Control group. Patients in the Bfb group differed from the Control group in headache frequency, amount of drug intake and active coping with pain. These outcomes were confirmed also after 4 months of follow-up. No significant effects were observed in EMG recordings. Conclusions: Biofeedback added to traditional pharmacological therapy in the treatment of MOH is a promising approach for reducing headache frequency and analgesic intake. Modification of coping cognitions in the Bfb group, as an adjunct mechanism of self-regulation, needs more evaluations to understand the role of biofeedback in changing maladaptive psychophysiological responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number87
Pages (from-to)1-8
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Biofeedback
  • Chronic migraine
  • Coping strategies
  • Medication overuse headache
  • Preventive therapy
  • Psychological treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Biofeedback in the prophylactic treatment of medication overuse headache: a pilot randomized controlled trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this