New research shows that regular exercise is just as good at preventing migraines as commonly prescribed drugs, but with none of the side effects.
Many people believe that migraines and exercise don’t mix well. But new research shows that regular exercise can prevent migraines in regular sufferers just as well as relaxation therapy and commonly prescribed drugs for migraine treatment.
Many migraine sufferers avoid exercise because they believe that physical exertion can trigger a painful attack. And many others prefer to avoid the pharmaceutical prophylactic drugs in favour of more traditional methods of prevention. These include avoidance of common triggers (certain foods, hormonal changes, odours/perfumes, weather changes, stress, too little/too much sleep). Others include herbal remedies, such as butterbur and feverfew.
But scientists from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have turned this belief upside down. They studied 91 women aged 18 to 65 who were patients of a headache clinic in Sweden. The women diagnosed with migraine by a neurologist suffered two to eight migraines per month.
A third of the women exercised with a physiotherapist for 40 minutes three times a week. Another third did relaxation exercises. The final third were given topiramate, an anticonvulsant (anti-epilepsy) drug that is commonly prescribed to prevent migraines.
The study, which lasted three months, checked migraine status, quality of life, aerobic capacity, and level of physical activity before, during, and after their treatment.
The researchers found that the women who exercised three times a week reduced their occurrence of migraines. In fact, there was no difference in results for the women who exercised and the women in the relaxation and drug therapy groups. All three groups experienced significant reductions.
This is good news for migraine sufferers who want to remain physically active. Not only will their activities keep them fit and happy, but it will also help them stave off painful migraines—a win, win, win prescription.