Migraines and Exercise

There are so many good reasons to begin an exercise program that you really dont even need one more. Nevertheless, you are about to read one more: Exercise can help in the treatment of migraines. Studies have found overwhelming evidence to support the idea that just moderate aerobic exercise helps to reduce not only the intensity, but also the frequency and even the duration of migraine headaches in those who experience migraines without aura.

Migraine headaches come in two varieties. Most sufferers experience severe headaches along with nausea and a heightened sensitivity to both light and sound. When the headache is accompanied by bizarre visual disturbances or unusual head sensations this is known as migraine headache with aura. Aura usually occurs before any actual head pain in a migraine episode. Most migraine suffers, however, do not experience these extreme sensations and instead experience what is known as migraine without aura.

Rapid changes in the flow of blood to the head is believed to be the cause of the migraine. The aura is theorized to be associated with constriction of blood vessels in the head, and when the vessels then widen again the result is head pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Studies have found that aerobic exercise can be helpful in migraine management, although exercising during the migraine episode itself can actually worsen the problem. One study involving patients with a history of migraines who participated in an aerobic exercise program revealed that they had experienced fewer migraines that were also of lessened intensity and shorter duration than did those with a history of migraines who did not exercise.

Increased levels of endorphins and other chemicals in the body are thought to be behind the reduction of the episodes and the mitigation of the symptoms. Endorphins are chemicals released inside the body that are associated with reducing pain.

Another study looked at people who had experienced migraines with aura chronically and were enrolled in an exercise program. These people were studied after they had ceased their intake of all anti-migraine medications that they had been using previous to the study and began the exercise program after six weeks. The session involved a ten-minute warm-up followed by twenty minutes of aerobic exercise performed at a moderate rate, followed by a ten minute long cooling off session.

Participants in this study exercised three times a week for six weeks, however they did not exercise during migraine headaches. Their levels of endorphin were measured both before and after the first exercise session and then again at the end of the study.

In the last four weeks of the study, those who had participated in this study reported significantly reduced frequency of their migraines, along with reductions both intensity and duration. Endorphin levels had increased after exercise in all of the participants, but interestingly it was those participants who began with the lower endorphin levels who experienced greater increases in endorphins after exercise.

The results of these studies indicate what most people probably already knew: that exercise is good for you even if you have migraines. When it comes to aerobic exercises, especially when done moderately, you have a tremendous number of choices. Simply going for a walk can also help in relaxing you if you live in an area where going for a walk takes you away from traffic and dogs and mean little kids. Or you could try biking in order to better escape the dogs and kids, but you still have to deal with the traffic.

On the other hand, you may wish to go the treadmill route. They arent nearly as expensive as they used to be and the cost would be well worth it if the result is avoiding headaches for the rest of your life.

Probably the best bet is to either shell out the dough for a health club membership or, better yet, buy one of those recumbent bikes. These are great because you can sit back and sort of relax, watch your favorite TV show or even play a video while getting your exercise, knocking off some pounds and may even beating your migraines.

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