Acceptance Reduces Migraine Suffering

Patient Expert & Health Professional

We’ve learned that obesity is a risk factor for Migraine and that a high body mass index (BMI) can worsen pre-existing Migraine. Now there’s some good news. Even those of us who struggle to lose weight can reduce our Migraine-related disability by practicing pain acceptance.

Pain acceptance happens when we are willing to experience pain and engage in healthy activities while experiencing that pain. Many of us have done this for years, recognizing that if we are going to have any quality of life, Migraine must come along for the ride. Now there’s evidence that this mindset and behavior actually benefit us in the long run, even while we struggle to take off those extra pounds and find the right treatments.

Study background

  • Avoidance behaviors are common among those with Migraine
  • Avoidance can lead to lower pain thresholds and increased disability
  • Pain acceptance involves both willingness to experience pain and active participation in normal activities while experiencing pain
  • Lower pain acceptance is associated with higher rates of disability and depression
  • Migraine frequency and intensity are linked to disability rates
  • Obesity increases risk of Migraine
  • Acceptance-based coping improves weight control

Study objective

The study was designed to assess the association between pain acceptance and Migraine disability. Frequency, intensity, and BMI were also tracked to determine their effects on Migraine-related disability.

Study methods


  • 126 women
  • Ages 18-50
  • Obese
  • Migraine with or without aura

Each participant

  • tracked Migraine frequency, intensity, and severity for 28 days
  • completed a Chronic Pain Acceptance Questionnaire (CPAQ)
  • completed a Headache Impact Test (HIT-6)

The results were then calculated to determine each participant’s level of disability, Migraine frequency and severity, and the rate of pain acceptance.

Study conclusions

Regardless of weight or Migraine severity, a willingness to experience pain is associated with greater pain tolerance and less disability. Future studies should focus on identifying treatment strategies that enhance pain acceptance.

Implications for patients

We don’t have to wait for more studies to incorporate pain acceptance into our overall Migraine management strategy. Patients interested in increasing their own pain acceptance may consider seeking acceptance-based therapy from a qualified mental health provider.

See more helpful articles:

Migraine Awareness Every Day – Making Life Better

Are You a Striver, a Survivor, or a Thriver?

Pacing Yourself to Manage Migraine


Lillis J, Thomas G, Seng E, et al. Importance of Pain Acceptance in Relation to Headache Disability and Pain Interference in Women With Migraine and Overweight/Obesity. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 2017;57:709-718.DOI:10.1111/head.13058.

Reviewed by David Watson, MD.

© Tammy Rome, 2017.