It shouldn’t be surprising that exercise is a migraine-fighter, but a recent study published in the journal Cephalalgia in October helps to put the benefits in perspective.
Walking – an excellent way to start
The study of 91 women who had migraine attacks with headache 2-8 times per week. The migraineurs were split into three groups. One group was given topiramate (Topamax), the next was put in a relaxation program, and the last group in an exercise program.
Which helped the most?
Over a three month period, with a follow-up of 3 and 6 months. The surprising result was – that all three groups experienced about the same benefit.
Some patients even found that their symptoms dropped by 75% – a remarkable improvement for any kind of treatment of such frequent migraine attacks.
Considering the possible side effects of topiramate and other medications, and the additional and long term benefits of exercise, it’s clear what we should be focusing on here.
I admit I was surprised at the language of the doctoral student who carried out the study, Dr. Emma Varkey. She says,"Our conclusion is that exercise can act as an alternative to relaxations and topiramate when it comes to preventing migraines, and is particularly appropriate for patients who are unwilling or unable to take preventative medicines."
So we take medicines, and if that doesn’t work we go the alternate route of exercise? I think that this study and a mountain of related research should be putting things the other way around. Let’s find wise, safe ways that migraineurs can exercise, and help them long term, instead of taking money out of their wallets and encouraging them to rely on a pill.
For many migraine patients, it’s going to be a combination – exercise, medication, and other treatments such as relaxation techniques. We need to look to long term benefits and treatment as well as short term relief.
More on the study from Science Daily: Exercise Just as Good as Drugs at Preventing Migraines, Swedish Study Suggests