Binaural Beats for Migraine: Benefits & How It Works – Verywell Health

Binaural Beats for Migraine: Benefits & How It Works – Verywell Health

Binaural Beats for Migraine: Benefits & How It Works – Verywell Health

Paul Wynn is an award-winning health journalist and the author of countless articles covering various scientific, healthcare policy, and technology trends.
Huma Sheikh, MD, is board-certified in neurology and specializes in migraine and stroke. She co-founded the migraine and vascular section for the American Headache Society.
Whether you like Beethoven or the Beatles, the benefits of music on your health are loud and clear. Advocates have long sung the praises of music therapy for the treatment of anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and pain management. Can those same song beats provide pain relief for people with migraines?
More than 37 million people—or one out of every six Americans—experience painful migraine attacks. Migraines are headaches that develop into usually pulsating, debilitating pain. Migraines can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Many people with migraines try everything from nutrition to exercise programs to prescription medicines to what’s called headache soothing music to find relief. Fortunately, a number of new therapies are available to treat migraines.
Stress management and relaxation techniques such as headache soothing music have been widely used to help treat and lessen migraine pain. Some research suggests that listening to different music tones—called binaural beats—might help release tension and stress. By making your mind relax, the beats may put you in a more comfortable frame of mind—which could help lessen migraine pain during an attack.
There’s a lack of extensive research regarding whether music or binaural beats in particular can reduce migraine symptoms or provide relief. Most doctors consider this therapy experimental. Yet, one small study assessed whether music intervention was helpful in the management of chronic pain. Participants who listened to music twice a day were able to reduce the use of pain medicines compared to those who did not hear any music.
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Binaural beats use two tones at different frequencies in each ear. The brain identifies the beat and creates an additional tone. This third tone is called a binaural beat.
To hear the binaural beat there must be sound coming into both ears. If you remove one of the sounds, you no longer will hear a binaural beat. Over a period of time, when binaural beats are sustained, they synchronize with brain waves. As a result, binaural beats can alter your brain wave activity.
Each frequency is associated with health outcomes that correspond to different levels of brain activity such as alertness, drowsiness, meditation, and sleep. It’s not fully understood, but music causes changes in the brain. Binaural beats are considered to induce the same mental state as meditation.
Beats are associated with five different frequencies that result in different levels of brain wave activity. The measurement of the number of cycles these waves complete in a second is expressed in hertz (Hz). Higher hertz is associated with a higher frequency of sound.
Brain waves can be recorded with an electroencephalogram, or EEG. Gamma waves are the highest and fastest frequency of brain activity (between 30 and 50 hertz). This kind of brain wave is associated with concentration, alertness, and problem solving.
The lowest brain wave is the delta pattern, which has a frequency of 0.5–4 hertz and is thought to help you sleep better. Binaural beats help trigger the relaxing theta waves (4–8 hertz) related to meditation. Learn more about brain waves and frequencies in the following chart:
Binaural beats are not the only audio therapy associated with meditation. Autonomous sensory meridian response, also known as ASMR, can also put you in a meditative state. Known for triggering tingling sensations in the scalp and neck area, ASMR has become a YouTube phenomenon.
ASMR videos trigger tingling sensations caused by sounds such as whispering, soft tapping, and light scratching. If you don’t like these sounds, there are plenty of other videos with other calming sounds like crashing waves, raindrops, and crackling fires—similar to white noise for a good night’s sleep.
There is limited research examining the role of ASMR. One study has shown its effectiveness in improving relaxation, managing stress, and initiating sleep. The same study also indicated that ASMR may reduce the symptoms of chronic pain.
Incorporating binaural beats into the management of migraine pain can be as easy as making your own playlist. YouTube and music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora provide binaural music for listeners to download.
Advocates of binaural beats recommend dimming the lights, sitting in a comfortable chair, and listening for at least 30 minutes to ensure the rhythm is in sync with your brain. Some individuals using binaural beats for migraines prefer wearing headphones or earbuds, while others like listening through speakers to prevent the wearable devices from pressing against their heads.
Available through music streaming services, binaural beats could be an alternative way to help treat and lessen migraine pain. While most doctors see it as experimental therapy, binaural beats could help put you in a peaceful state of mind—which could help lessen migraine-related pain. Music with binaural beats could become part of your management plan for treating migraine pain.
Most researchers recommend listening to binaural beats at the theta brain wave frequency (4–8 hertz). This frequency is associated with meditation and relaxation.
Loud noises increase the pain of migraines. The pain usually persists even when the noise has ended. Loud and forceful noises not only contribute to worsening migraine attacks, but they can also trigger attacks. Stop listening if music and binaural beats are worsening the painful effects of the migraine.
Stress management and relaxation techniques such as headache soothing music have been widely used to help treat and lessen migraine pain. Some research suggests that listening to different music tones might help release tension and stress. Making your mind relax could help lessen migraine pain.
Binaural beats are a healthy and safe way to achieve relaxation. When migraine attacks occur, some people become sensitive to sound and seek silent environments. Others may find music to be soothing and helpful in reducing stress during a migraine attack. If you’re looking for an alternative way to manage migraine pain, talk to your doctor about binaural beats.
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National Headache Foundation. Migraine News. Updated 2021
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Rahman JS, Gedeon T, Caldwell S, Jones R. Brain melody informatics: Analysing effects of music on brainwave patterns. In: 2020 International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN). 2020;1-8. doi:10.1109/IJCNN48605.2020.9207392
Lavallee CF, Koren SA, Persinger MA. A quantitative electroencephalographic study of meditation and binaural beat entrainmentThe Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2011;17(4):351-355. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0691
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