The causes of migraine are varied, and cures have remained elusive. According to the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study, 29.5 million Americans are afflicted with migraine headaches (National Headache Foundation, 2005). This statistic includes children and adolescents. “Even young male wizards are disabled by them,” according to Dr. Fred Sheftell of the New England Center for Headache. He and colleagues recently reviewed the headaches suffered by Harry Potter in the J. K. Rowling series (Sheftell, Steiner, & Thomas, 2007). In an effort to build migraine awareness, they concluded that Harry Potter suffered from probable migraine.
Kelsie Kenefick has written a practical book about migraines for the headache sufferer. The title, Migraines Be Gone, evokes the possibility that with wizard-like skill, one might be able to banish migraines forever. The text is the result of more than a decade of Kelsie Kenefick’s professional experience, training, and research. She is the creator of the Migraines Be Gone treatment program and holds a master’s degree from the State University of New York. She is a licensed mental health counselor and is certified by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America in general biofeedback.
Migraines Be Gone is an award-winning book (having received first place in the health and fitness category for the 2006 Colorado State EVVY book awards). It combines a comprehensive learning process with experiential practice in a well-organized text that presents a protocol of seven steps for the lay person.The author encourages the headache sufferer to practice this protocol over a period of 2 to 4 months to reduce or eliminate migraine headaches.Although Kenefick has not conducted specific research regarding the efficacy of the Migraines Be Gone treatment program, her protocol is based on current research and clinical practice of behavioral medicine and biofeedback for headache.
The seven book chapters are arranged according to the seven-step intervention process promoted by the program. Chapters includes lessons supporting the learning and successful completion of each step. Step 1 is titled “Make a Commitment.” It reviews a target plan for using the program successfully, even though initial skepticism may exist about potential efficacy. Support strategies and contraindications are included. Working with one’s physician is encouraged.
“Understanding Migraines” is the extensive topic of Step 2. It begins by summarizing the general functions of the autonomic nervous system. Underlying mechanisms responsible for migraine headaches are reviewed. Concepts of eustress, distress, and disease are described while distinctions are made between migraine, muscle tension, and rebound headache types.Biofeedback theory and biofeedback skills are explained. Although the medical components are complex, Kenefick presents them simply. She combines informative illustrations to clarify function and anatomy with personal anecdotes to ground concepts. A questionnaire provides the reader with an opportunity to record personal migraine symptoms and history. Instructions for creating a headache chart are included.
Step 3 promotes body awareness while examining the mind-body connection. The title, “Calm the Body/Still the Mind,” is supported by three comprehensive and effective lessons promoting relaxation through techniques of breathing, deep relaxation, and imagery. The reader becomes predictably aware of carried tension and learns to effectively release it from the body. The notion of a new normal is introduced. The reader is encouraged to establish a new normal level of habit and body tension conducive to the elimination of migraine headaches. The additional benefits of practicing the stress-reduction techniques integral to the program are discussed. These include a reduction in irritability, fatigue, and general anxiety, with an anticipated increase in energy, focus, and positive outlook. Productivity is also enhanced.
“Relax Specific Muscles” is the title and goal of instruction in Step 4. There are four lessons supporting the relaxation of different muscle groups. These include the shoulders, neck, muscles around the eyes, and the jaw. The relationship between muscle tension and migraines is evaluated
Photographs illustrate correct exercise positions, whereas illustrations aid in identifying several muscle groups. The author uses personal anecdotes to encourage the reader toward successful practice and outcomes.
Step 5 is titled “Tap Into the Power of Your Mind.” The potent influence thoughts wield either to provoke a stressful reaction or to promote a healing response is discussed in relationship to the mind-body connection. The author is generous with a sampling of affirmations. Reassuring guidance is presented for the successful composition and practice of personal affirmations.
Step 6 addresses the prevention of migraines through arterial dilation and is appropriately titled “Increase Your Circulation.” The author points out that remaining in a pattern of arterial constriction maintains the headache cycle. The lesson supporting this concept is central to gaining control of migraines. It includes techniques for increasing circulation and controlling body temperature. It incorporates skills mastered in previous lessons including diaphragmatic breathing, visualization, imagination, and affirmations.
Step 7 begins with hearty congratulations. It is titled “Staying on Track” and is replete with strategies to avoid becoming side tracked. The step includes a section on frequently asked questions. Examples include, “Can these skills be used to stop a migraine once it has started?” and “Do I have to do these exercises forever?” The answer to the first question is “yes,” according to the author. The skills presented in the book can sometimes successfully abort an early-stage migraine, although she points out that the seven-step program is primarily a preventative practice. Kenefick addresses the second question by offering encouragement for continued skill practice even after the eventual cessation
In summary, Migraines Be Gone offers a well-organized and comprehensive treatment protocol for the relief of migraine headaches. It is written at a practical level for a lay readership. Complex models are simplified. Illustrations and photographs demonstrate various exercises, techniques, and anatomical relationships for easier comprehension and practice. Although the specific focus is relief from migraine headaches, the text provides a generous collection of basic biofeedback principles and techniques applicable to numerous conditions and life circumstances.
Sheftell, F., Steiner, T. J., & Thomas, H. (2007). Harry Potter and the curse of headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face