According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 38 million people in the United States suffer from migraines. Migraines tend to run in families and can be debilitating, but medication and other medical treatments don’t always provide relief. The Migraine Trust states that exercise is a noted trigger for migraine headaches, but that moderate activity can provide relief for some sufferers. If you’re considering trying exercise to get relief from migraines and have received permission from your doctor to do so, here are some activities to consider.
Hiking and Walking Outdoors
Migraines can be triggered by unnatural light, indoor air pollutants, inactivity and stress. Walking outdoors eliminates all of these things and offers up fresh air, sunshine, exercise and stress-busting endorphins. To get started with hiking, have a light day pack professionally fitted. While this will be more expensive than just strapping on a backpack from a department store, it will help you to avoid an ill-fitting or unbalanced pack that can stress your neck and shoulders and make your migraines worse. Start out on beginner trails and don’t try multiple-day hikes until you’re accustomed to all the activity. Remember to walk steadily and not push yourself, as over-exertion could exacerbate your symptoms or leave you susceptible to injuries.
The practice of yoga can be used to prevent migraines and also to relieve the pain of a current migraine. Yoga helps reduce blood pressure and relieve stress, both of which are known triggers. If you’ve never practiced yoga before, you can begin at home using an instructional book or DVD. Of course, you will want your practice space to be free or irritants and pollutants that could make your migraines worse. Consider making an appointment for a carpet cleaner to scrub your carpeting so your space will be free of contaminants. If you’re not confident with practicing by yourself, community centers and yoga studios in your area may offer a beginners class to teach you the basics.
Not all exercise is done with your body. Sometimes, the mind will instruct the body and heal itself. Time Magazine published in 2014 that meditation can reduce the length of a migraine by three hours. Meditation allows you to feel in control of your body and mind, instructing it as to your own wishes. The calmness and serenity can help lower your blood pressure, relax tense muscles and also help with depression and anxiety. Just thirty minutes a day of mindful contemplation can make a huge difference in the frequency and intensity of your migraines.
Swimming is often lauded as a zero-impact, gentle form of exercise that allows you to set your own pace without stressing your body. If your last experience in the water was back on the high school team, it might be time to get back into the pool. For those who experience worse pain with intense exercise, a leisurely half hour of laps can be soothing. Water yoga or even floating for a while can also help your symptoms and lessen the pain of a migraine, because the water supports your body and allows your muscles to relax. The warmth of a heated pool can also contribute to a lower frequency of headaches, much like laying in a bath or hot tub.
Migraine headaches have many different triggers, and they vary from person to person. If you’re suffering from severe headaches and are looking for relief without medication, some medium-intensity exercise may be a beneficial addition to your prevention and treatment plan. Of course, speak to your doctor before you start any exercise program to ensure the activity is safe for you.