If you suffer from migraines and have ever considered doing yoga, there’s now even more of a reason to try it.
A study published in the medical journal Neurology has shown how yoga could reduce the frequency, duration, and pain of migraine attacks. There has been research in the past which has supported the theory that yoga can help in alleviating migraines, but this latest study has suggested that practising yoga could reduce the number of migraines experienced per month by nearly half!
In the study, 114 people aged between 18 and 50 who all suffered from episodic migraines (4 to 14 headaches per month) were assigned into one of two groups. The first group only used medication to try and control their migraines. The second group used medication, but they also practised yoga. Both groups were given guidance on lifestyle changes they could make to help reduce their migraines – such as eating well, doing some exercise, and getting enough sleep.
The group who did yoga did an hour of yoga three days a week for the first month. Afterwards, for the final two months of the study, the group practised yoga for five days per week. The yoga included meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga poses.
At the end of the study, the group who had only been taking medication saw a 12% decrease in the number of headaches they had per month – their average of 7.7 headaches per month went down to 6.8 headaches per month. However, the group who had been doing yoga as well as taking medication went from an average of 9.1 headaches per month, down to 4.7 headaches per month – a 48% reduction in headaches.
Interestingly, the level of medication the yoga group took also went down significantly over the course of the study, with the average number of pills the yoga group took going down by 47%.
Yoga is often cited as a way to reduce stress, which is one major trigger for migraines, but there are also other theories as to why it helps reduce migraines.
It’s thought that yoga may change the autonomic nervous system, and consequently the interconnections with the trigeminal vascular system. Imaging studies have shown there has been a positive effect on the limbic system, pain matrix, and brain networks as a result of yoga. Additionally, yoga is said to improve sleep, physical fitness, and overall quality of life – more reasons why yoga may help to relieve migraines.
Although this recent study has its limitations due to its size, duration, and the data being self-reported, it does suggest that yoga is well worth trying as an additional way to reduce migraines.