Meta-Synthesis on Migraine Management

Mia T. Minen, Carlita Anglin, Alexandra Boubour, Allison Squires, Linda Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Migraine is one of the top 10 most disabling conditions among adults worldwide. Most migraine research is quantitative and indicates concerns about medication adherence, stigma, and more. Qualitative studies might reveal an improved understanding of migraine patients’ perspectives regarding migraine treatment. Objective: The aim of this study was to synthesize the qualitative research on migraine patients’ perspectives regarding migraine treatment to (a) identify common patterns across various types of migraine treatment studies and (b) inform future research. Methods: A systematic search for qualitative studies in the HA (HA) literature was conducted in Medline (PubMed), PsycINFO, EMBASE, CINAHL, Web of Science, Joanna Briggs Institute EBP Database, and The Cochrane Library. Search terms (subject headings and keywords) were HA, HA disorders, migraine, qualitative studies, and qualitative research. Qualitative studies were systematically identified by using published qualitative search filters recommended by The InterTASC Information Specialists’ Sub-Group (ISSG). The search was limited to English only, peer reviewed publications, and studies published between 1996 and 2016. For screening, additional inclusion criteria were (1) adult migraine patients; (2) must mention treatment in the title or study design of the abstract. Ten studies met the inclusion criteria. The Critical Appraisal Skills Program tool was applied to appraise study quality. Thematic analysis produced the codes and themes. Two authors read articles separately and individually created codes. Code lists were synthesized and themes emerged iteratively from the process. Results: Study sample sizes ranged from 10 to 33 participants, with our findings representing 161 participants. Data were collected either using interviews or focus groups. The more common methodologies were grounded theory and phenomenology. Few (3) studies described the number of headache (HA) days for inclusion in the study. Eight out of 10 used International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) criteria. Our synthesis produced five major themes. The first theme was “Migraine patients’ difficulties with health care utilization,” and it included issues surrounding the cost of migraine treatment (seeing providers and prescription medications). The second theme was “Migraine patients’ perceived relationships with their providers,” which included the role and relationship with the provider, as well as trust in the provider and the providers’ knowledge in managing HAs. The third theme was “Thoughts about the various migraine treatments.” It was based on patients’ comments indicating an aversion to prescription medications, the use of non-pharmacological interventions for treatment, behavioral modification as a form of treatment, and the need for additional treatment options. The fourth and fifth themes were “Understanding diagnosis/triggers” and “Societal implications,” respectively. The latter theme included feelings of not being taken seriously and issues surrounding quality of life. Discussion: The metasynthesis revealed several key commonalities regarding patients’ perspectives on migraine treatment and identified new areas for research using a qualitative approach. Researchers conducting qualitative research with patients experiencing migraines might consider using and reporting more of the inclusion and exclusion criteria commonly used in migraine research, for example, reporting whether the ICHD criteria were used and the number of HA days for patients to be in a study. Future studies might be done to determine how the role of allied health care providers, for example, pharmacists, physical therapists, and psychologists, might be expanded to help with migraine treatment and ultimately to improve patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-44
Number of pages23
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • health care utilization
  • management
  • migraine
  • provider role
  • qualitative research
  • societal implications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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