Exercise to prevent migraine ?

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Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  Emiline on Wed Jul 03, 2013 8:16 am

Does anyone do any exercise or fitness to prevent migraine and if so, what do you do?

I've had migraines since I was 9 years old and I've tried a lot of different medications but I must admit I haven't really looked after myself very well in the fitness domain. I've always been thin, so because of that, I never felt I needed to exercise when I was younger.

Now, I want to do everything I can to prevent my migraines instead of just swallowing pills and putting up with the pain. I'm trying to drink a lot more water than I ever did before, I'm eating better, I avoid triggers (I've always avoided triggers), as well as taking preventative meds, and I am trying to be more active.

I am seeing a small improvement, and I am starting to wonder if sitting in an office all day under Fluoro lights has an impact too... I notice I also get a lot of tension in my neck. I still 1-2 migraines every couple of weeks and they usually last a few days at a time.

Anyway, please share with me your ideas ...

A friend has recommended feldenkrais, which I think could be worth a shot.


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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  Seaine on Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:35 pm

A pain specialist I went to once told me that people who do regular aerobic exercise get fewer migraines.  I thought this was ridiculous, and most likely the people who get fewer migraines feel well enough to exercise, not the other way around.

Anyways, I have a very active job where I am walking the whole time and lifting things, etc, and my migraines have remained exactly the same since I started this career.  I have also had a few occasions where I did a short jog, literally 50ft, and had a migraine start immediately.  So I'm not really sure that exercise does anything, at least not for mine.

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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  Migrainegirl on Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:33 pm

I had similar experiences where I exercise on a good day, and then that leads to a migraine, so best to take it very easy. The best exercise I've found is yoga. It's just enough to build up better mobility and stamina slowly without causing a migraine.

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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  Cassiej on Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:28 pm

Hi Emiline. I tried exercise last winter for 3 months. My thoughts were exercise is supposed to help with production of serotonins and fight depression etc. I've tried everything else so I created a plan to walk 2 hours a day on the treadmill in front of the TV. This was not running or jogging but a brisk walk. I did an hour in the am and an hr in the pm. My butt looked great, I lost weight but my migraines stayed exactly the same. I saw no migraine benefit but the exercise did contribute to a greater sense of well being. I encourage exercise but for all the other health reasons.


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neck strengthening exercise

Post  corinneg on Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:44 am

Hi Emiline,

I also have a lot of neck tension that I believe was triggering migraines. Unfortunately exercise in itself seemed to be the main trigger for me but I did find a lot of relief in a couple things I will list below. Recently I have found my main trigger to be wheat in my diet and have cut it out totally. No more migraines but I still do these exercises for good measure...

First, I went to my chiropractor and he said: Stand at your normal posture. Don't move anything and look down at your hands. If you can see the backs of your hands (meaning your shoulders are rolled in and your hands rest in front of you) , you have poor posture. Correct posture would be that your shoulders are rolled back, your hands rest at your sides and you can see only the tips of your thumbs.

If you find this to be the case, try these two exercises, and try to be aware of your posture at all times and sit up straight. It is very hard to maintain at first because your muscles are not used to holding you up this way, but it gets easier.

Use a Theraband, big latex rubberband (10$ at my chiro):

Exercise one: Stand with arms out in front, shoulder level, palms facing. Hold Theraband with one end in each hand, shoulder width apart. ROll shoulders back to establish good posture. Maintaining shoulder height, move arms apart to sides, stretching Theraband across chest. Adjust Theraband length for proper resistance. Return to starting position.

Exercise two: Stand at rest with arms at side. Hold Theraband with one end in each hand and the loop running under feet so that you are stepping on the middle of it. Stand straight with shoulders rolled back to maintain good posture. Shrug shoulders up to ears, roll back, and lower to starting. Use only shoulder muscles, not arms. Adjust length on Theraband to desired resistance.

Do these 2 exercise 10 repeats each, 2-3 times/day. Actually I started with once per day and felt relief.

And use this stretch: Stand in doorway, place hand at shoulder with on either side and lean in to open doorway to stretch muscles across chest or place one arm at a time against wall and turn away from wall for similar stretch.

As it was described to me the muscles in the upper back run up the neck and if they are not strong enough will become inflammed with stress and cause tension and pain possibly triggering migraines.

Hope this helps...a trip to a good chiropractor could help too.



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neck strengthening exercises links

Post  corinneg on Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:04 am

Hi Emiline,

Here are a couple links to the exercise I was describing:

Exercise one : From Youtube - Reverse Fly with resistance band (Squat not necessary)

Exercise two: From Youtube - Shoulder shrug with resistance band

And the stretches:

From Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x49BB2sOUG4

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions.


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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  tortoisegirl on Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:15 pm

For my daily headache, correcting my posture (mostly neck position) has helped my pain levels some, and especially the neck tension I get. I went to physical therapy awhile back and they included posture work.

The neck strengthening exercises however didn't help me. Chiro also makes me worse, plus reading more up on it, it scares me (I've heard of folks getting permanent damage). I tried some upper cervical chiro that wasn't as scary to me, but it didn't help. Acupuncture wasn't helpful but doesn't scare me as much either.

Massage is good for my neck though. I'd do that all the time if it wasn't so expensive. For awhile my insurance covered it, but stopped when they realized it wasn't an acute injury and I wasn't making progress (well duh! its chronic pain).

I can't tolerate true aerobic exercise without the pain spiking. Whenever my heart rate gets up the blood pumps to my head and I get the pounding type headache exacerbation.

However, I try to do whatever I can tolerate. Either walking or a light workout on the elliptical machine. I can also tolerate a stationary exercise bike, but we don't have a gym right now (just the elliptical at home).

I would have to agree that people with fewer migraines probably feel well enough to exercise! Its also easier to eat healthier when you feel good enough to put the effort in. Whatever you can do to be healthy has got to help though. Best wishes.


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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  Platypus on Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:47 pm

Heavy exercise will trigger migraines. I used to play racquetball and I'd come home and have a banging headache. I was younger then and plowed through the headaches at work and play, but not anymore.

I've managed to get back to a daily calisthenics routine for the past three years after dropping it for about a year and a half. Well, it's not really daily because some days my head is hurting all day and I can't do it. It's helped me lose weight and tone up. It hasn't effected my headaches at all.

I take a half hour walk every day at a decent pace. Again, hasn't helped my headaches, but I'm sure it's good for my heart health.

I used to get massage when I was working and had money. I had a great masseuse. Sometimes I would get a headache the next day and I could tell it was from the massage. I've gotten massage when I had a HA and it almost never helps. On a couple occasions I've had it knock out the HA.

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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  ConcordGrape on Mon Aug 12, 2013 9:55 am

Hi Emiline,
I have posted about exercise and migraine a few times in here, i'm sure you can find the threads if you search.

I am a HUGE advocate of exercise for migraine prevention. The best evidence I have for this is when I cycled across the US in the summer. With the exception of the first few weeks, when I had daily M's while adjusting to the new routine, I did not get one more migraine the whole summer. It was astonishing, because I was exposed to so many other triggers--extreme physical & mental stress, irregular/lack of sleep, fluctuating blood sugar levels, dehydration, and 8+ hours of sun exposure. Needless to say, it was the incredible amount of exercise I was doing that kept the migraine's away!

Since then, I have experienced activity-related migraines, which have been mentioned by a few others here and are discouraging. If this happens to you, I encourage you to push through and modify your routine carefully so you can optimize activity level without triggering a headache. Even if that means going for a walk instead of a run. Maybe try throwing in 10s bouts of running, and then before you know it you will be running the entire way.

So what do I do? I do something every day, whether it's yoga, ballet, circuit training (all of which I follow on youtube, PM me if you would like more info), running, biking. Cardio is very good, but overall the best thing you can do is lift weights. This is not only good for M, but also good for your entire health. It will bring your heart rate up, make you sweat, and it will alleviate other pains that seem totally unrelated.

(((For 2+ years after the bike ride I had chronic shoulder pain that did not respond to any treatment (muscle relaxants, yoga, massage, stretching, or strengthening) until I started lifting weights. It was all about core/back strength!)))

I recently met someone who is just like us--migraineur who has modified her life for M's. She SWEARS by exercise, specifically CrossFit. She believes that increasing heart rate and doing short bursts of activity is what makes a difference. I agree, but am cautious about the "bursts" as this can trigger a migraine if you are not warmed up properly.

Best of luck, and if you do start exercising, please post on here so we can know how it works out for you!

xox Mel

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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  Mule Kick on Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:51 pm

My PCP wants me to walk for half an hour every day.
Mule Kick

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Re: Exercise to prevent migraine ?

Post  sevdah on Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:00 am

I workout around an hour every day when I don't have migraines and I still have them 1/3 of the time. I have an ambition to become an instructor (a bit of a wild dream with my migraines, but still I'll probably try), so I workout hard and I do lots of things - cardio and strength training, stretches, pilates. Stretching gently sometimes helps after or before a migraine. I don't know if I'm preventing some migraines, because I started working out a lot around the same time my migraine started becoming worse, but I feel like it's not really helping (when I'm on a vacation and not working out, I generally don't have more migraines).


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