Migraine and exercise – Does fear of a migraine leave you afraid to exercise?

When it comes to migraine and exercise, we migraine sufferers can find ourselves in a catch-22 situation. We’ve read that higher levels of stress can contribute to migraine and we know that exercise helps lower stress.

But what if in our experience exercise actually seems to trigger a migraine? We can end up feeling confused about different forms of exercise and afraid to do anything at all.

Migraine and exercise

According to Dr. Robert Sheeler, of the world famous Mayo Clinic, exercise including yoga, tai chi and other mind/body techniques can help reduce the number of times we get migraines as well as the severity of the attacks. It appears this is also effective even if your migraines are infrequent.

This all sounds positive but what about aerobic exercise? However much you want to get to the gym, the prospect of another migraine just doesn’t seem worth it. Well, it seems there are certain exercises that can be good for migraine sufferers. Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden have developed an exercise program that can safely improve fitness among migraine sufferers without triggering attacks.

“We know that everyone benefits from a little exercise, but if you’re convinced that a session at the gym will end up with you being confined to bed with a thumping headache and nausea then it’s hardly surprising that people give it a miss,” says Jane Carlsson, Professor in Physiotherapy at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
Their study published in scientific journal Headache, some twenty migraine sufferers were asked to follow a special exercise programme three times a week for three months. The programme involved using an exercise bike under the guidance of a physiotherapist.

Only one of the patients suffered a migraine attack that was directly linked to the training session.

“We’ve been able to show that the risk of increased frequency of attacks in connection with this type of exercise is extremely small” says Mattias Linde, neurologist at Cephalea Headache Centre and researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy.

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