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The University of Alabama

UA Psychology Professor Seeks Relief for Chronic Headache Sufferers

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Dr. Beverly Thorn, chair of The University of Alabama’s psychology department, is seeking volunteers for a key study into how “mindfulness meditation” can help manage chronic pain from headaches.

Complementary and alternative medicine approaches are becoming increasingly popular among the American public for the treatment of an array of physical, emotional and mental problems, Thorn said. One such approach is “mindfulness meditation.” The approach appeals to a wide range of people and is gaining steady research support for its use in treating health-care problems.

Mindfulness meditation is a specific form of meditation originally developed in the East. The idea has been integrated into Western psychology and health care.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of mindfulness-based approaches within the Western medical community, describes mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience, moment by moment.”

“Although people might think of monasteries and monks when they hear the word ‘meditation,’ patients across the country are discovering that these approaches are much more applicable to everyday life than once thought,” said Thorn, who has performed extensive research on the psychology of headaches and pain management. “Meditation as applied to healthcare is being demystified and made practical at a number of locations.”

Investigators in UA’s psychology department are performing cutting-edge research on the effectiveness of this treatment approach for chronic headache pain management. The eight-week program, developed by Thorn and her senior graduate student, Melissa Day, is an integrated treatment with mindfulness meditation at its core.

The treatment also includes mindful yoga, led by Dr. Nancy Rubin, a certified yoga instructor, and stress management skills. Treatment groups are under way with headache patients meeting once a week for two-hour sessions, for a total of eight weeks.

Also as part of the program, patients are provided with a series of CDs that are intended as a guide for daily, at-home meditation practice. This research already is receiving international recognition and is being funded through grants from the Anthony Marchionne Foundation and the National Headache Foundation.

For more information, contact Thorn at 205/348-5024 or by e-mail at mbct4pain@gmail.com.

The department of psychology is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.