The Trager approach decreased the frequency of headaches and the use of medication for people with chronic headaches, and it improved their quality of life, according to recent research.

“The Trager Approach in the Treatment of Chronic Headache: A Pilot Study” was conducted by staff at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, California.

Twenty-nine people ages 18-65 with histories of chronic headaches, at least one per week for at least six months, participated in the study. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: the medication-only, no-treatment control group; the medication and attention control group; or the medication and Trager treatment group.

Throughout the six-week study, subjects in the medication-only, no-treatment group continued their normal routine, with no visits to a health-care provider.

Subjects in the attention group visited their physicians for 15-20 minutes once a week for six weeks to discuss their headaches, medication intake, level of well-being and other concerns. The physician also performed an exam of the head and neck at each appointment.

Participants assigned to the Trager group received a one-hour Trager session each week for six weeks. The sessions focused on areas of tension and restricted motion in the headache sufferers, typically in areas such as the head, neck, upper back and shoulders. The Trager approach is an educational, movement-based therapy that aims to increase body awareness and relaxation, and teach clients pain-free, balanced movement.

All subjects were required to keep a headache diary that detailed frequency, duration and intensity of headaches, as well as headache-related use of medication, starting two weeks before the six-week study period and continuing through the end of the study.

Participants also completed a Headache Quality of Life Questionnaire (HQOL), adapted from the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire, at the beginning and end of the study.

Results of the study showed a significant decrease in the frequency of headaches for subjects in the Trager group, along with a significant improvement in HQOL and a 44-percent decrease in the mean use of medication.

“The results of this … trial indicate that Trager is effective in decreasing the frequency of headache, decreasing medication intake and improving quality of life in headache patients,” state the study’s authors.

Participants in the attention group also showed a significant improvement in HQOL and a 19-percent decrease in mean use of medication.

Subjects in the medication-only group showed a statistically significant increase in mean headache duration and intensity, a decline in HQOL and a 25-percent increase in mean use of medication.

“Medication usage decreased significantly in the Trager group and nominally in the attention group, while increasing in the control group,” state the study’s authors. “Clearly, there would be a substantial economic and clinical value to decreasing the amounts of medication taken by headache patients.”

Source: University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy. Authors: Kimberly A. Foster, M.D.; Jack Liskin; Steven Cen; Allan Abbott, M.D.; Valeska Armisen, M.D.; Denise Globe, Ph.D.; Lyndee Knox, Ph.D.; Miles Mitchell, M.D.; Corina Shtir; and Stanley Azen, Ph.D. Originally published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, September/October 2004, Vol. 10, No. 5, pp. 40-45.

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