Iranian researchers from Isfahan University, Arak University and Shafa Hospital investigated the efficacy of guided imagery and meditating on a happy memory for relieving the intensity, frequency and duration of chronic tension-type headaches.

Sixty people, all receiving individualized headache therapy, were randomly assigned to one of three groups of 20.  One arm listened to a guided imagery audiotape 3 times/week for 3 weeks; one arm imagined their happiest personal memory 3 times/week for 3 weeks; and one group received treatment as usual.  

Subjects completed a demographic questionnaire and kept a headache diary.

In three of the outcome measures; headache intensity, headache frequency and headache duration – both guided imagery groups (tape and perceived happy memory) had significantly more improvement than the controls.  There were no significant differences between the two kinds of guided imagery groups at any time point.

The investigators conclude that guided imagery may be an effective, available and affordable nonpharmacological therapy, either using a tape or by evoking a perceived happy memory, for the management of chronic tension type headaches.

Abdoli S, Rahzani K, Safaie M, Sattari A. A randomized controlled trial: the effect of guided imagery with tape and perceived happy memory on chronic tension type headache. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences. 2011 Oct 10. [Epub ahead of print]