How regular exercise could help reduce migraine triggers

Among participants who took no exercise, 48 per cent had high headache frequency, defined as having 25 or more headache days per month. ― Studio pic

Subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on news you need to know.

NEW YORK, Feb 26 ― Although not recommended while experiencing a migraine, regular exercise may have a preventative effect on the onset of migraines by helping to reduce associated triggers, new research from the American Academy of Neurology suggests.

Research published ahead of the American Academy of Neurology’s 73rd Annual Meeting, held virtually in April, involved over 4,000 patients diagnosed with migraine. Approximately three-quarters of participants had chronic migraines (15 migraines or more a month) and one quarter experienced episodic migraines (up to 14 a month).

Participants completed a questionnaire about the characteristics of their migraines, as well as their sleep, depression, stress, anxiety, and the amount of moderate-to-vigorous exercise they got each week. Types of exercise considered moderate to vigorous in the study included jogging, very brisk walking, playing a sport, heavy cleaning and cycling.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, participants who reported taking regular exercise reported lower levels of stress and anxiety. Researchers also found an association between exercise and the risk of migraines.

Among participants who reported taking no exercise, 48 per cent had high headache frequency, defined as having 25 or more headache days per month, compared to just 28 per cent among participants who regularly took two-and-a-half hours of a week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise. 

For many sufferers, migraine is a chronic disease, but the symptoms and the factors susceptible of triggering these headaches can vary greatly from one person to another, which can make treatment complex. Migraines often involve throbbing or pulsating pain in a localised area of the head. They can last several hours or several days, and can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or aversion to sound and/or light.

Some of the most well-known factors for triggering migraines include stress, tiredness, dehydration and changes in routine. These factors are often closely linked to lifestyles, which means that it is sometimes possible to take preventative action to naturally reduce the frequency of migraines. Exercise, could be one such measure, for example.

“Migraine is a disabling condition that affects millions of people in the United States, and yet regular exercise may be an effective way to reduce the frequency and intensity of some migraines,” said study author, Mason Dyess of the University of Washington in Seattle and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Exercise releases natural painkillers called endorphins, helps people sleep better and reduces stress. But if people with migraine are not exercising, they may not be reaping these benefits.” ― ETX Studio