It sounds a little counter-intuitive considering how debilitating a migraine can be, but researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden say exercise is just as good as drugs when it comes to preventing migraines.
A migraine is an extremely painful variety of headache. Sufferers typically describe pulsing or throbbing pain along with nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.
The research team compared the effectiveness of traditional treatments like prescription drugs (topiramate) and relaxation exercises with the results of establishing an exercise routine.
91 study participants were divided into the three groups, with one-third prescribed topiramate, one-third doing relaxation exercises and one-third exercising for 40 minutes three times a week under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
Before, during and after the three-month study, researchers evaluated patients’ migraine activity, quality of life, aerobic ability and level of physical activity. A follow-up assessment was completed after six months.
The results showed the number of migraines patients suffered fell in all three treatment groups. What’s particularly interesting is that the study showed all three groups
“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,” says Emma Varkey, the physiotherapist and doctoral student at the Sahlgrenska Academy in charge of the study.
If you’re looking to establish a brand new exercise routine, it’s always a good idea to see your doctor beforehand, particularly if you’re trying to use exercise to ease a chronic condition like migraines. That said, it seems logical that the endorphins released during aerobic exercise could help migraine sufferers avoid painful attacks.