Migraine sufferers often avoid exercise because they believe the exertion will trigger symptoms. But a recent study shows that regular exercise — even at a vigorous level — may offer some relief for those with the condition.
The study, conducted in Sweden, included 26 people who took part in a 40-minute indoor cycling exercise program three times a week for 12 weeks. Each session began with a 15-minute warm-up in the light to moderate range, segued into a 20-minute exercise bout that increased the intensity into a more challenging range, and ended with a five-minute cool-down.
Participants kept a diary of their migraine attacks, noting the days, the intensity of the pain, and how much medication was taken. They also filled out a questionnaire regarding quality of life. Researchers measured VO2Max, or the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense exercise — a good measure of fitness.
By the end of the study, VO2Max increased considerably and study participants found their symptoms did not get worse during the study. They also had fewer migraines, less intense pain, and used less migraine medication during the last month.No one reported side effects, although one person did have a migraine attack immediately after exercising. Scores in the quality of life questionnaire also improved notably at the end of the study.
Dr. Emma Varkey, co-author of the study, said via a release: "While the optimal amount of exercise for patients with migraine remains unknown, our evaluated program can now be tested further and compared to pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments to see if exercise can prevent migraine." The study apears in this month’s issue of Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.
-- Jeannine Stein
Photo credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times