The Migraine and Exercise Dilemma: Sweating it Out without the Pain

The Power of Exercise for Migraine Relief Finding a Balance

Migraine and Exercise The Good and the Bad

Workout with Migraine

Exercise – No pain, no gain, right? Well, not when you live with migraines. For you, exercise can be as tricky as a double-edged sword. Some physical activities can trigger your symptoms, but here’s the good news: sweating it out on a regular basis could actually help you get migraines less often. You just have to know how to do it.

When Exercise Helps

In a study of over 4,500 people with migraines, those who managed to get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise every week experienced fewer migraines than those who rarely moved. And guess what? It’s not just about hitting the gym! You can get benefits from brisk walking, biking, jogging, and yes, even heavy cleaning – if that’s your thing.

As neurologist Julia Jones, MD, from Houston Methodist Hospital suggests, cardio is a powerful de-stressor that can cut migraines by a whopping 50%! But there’s more to it than that – your sweat sessions release endorphins and other chemicals that directly affect pain. However, a significant part of their benefit may be indirect.

“While stress is the number one trigger for migraines, sleep issues are a close second,” says Dr. Jones. “Cardio helps you sleep better and cuts stress, so, in most migraine patients, exercise helps.” Not only that, but physical activity can also help you lose or maintain weight, and studies show that keeping a healthy weight reduces migraine attacks.

When Exercise Hurts

Your workout can be challenging, but not too hard

So, what’s the downside of a workout? Well, quite a few things that happen at the gym or during exercise could potentially set off an attack.

According to Stephen Corvini, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, overexertion, bright lights, heat, dehydration, or a strenuous workout might tip a patient into a migraine. In fact, high-intensity or strenuous upper-body activities, like overhead lifting and pushups, may not be ideal for individuals who experience migraines because they can raise blood pressure to dangerous levels.

But don’t worry, there are alternatives! Instead of pushups, you can give planks or chest presses with dumbbells a try.

Find the Sweet Spot

Now that we know exercise can be a friend or a foe when it comes to migraines, how do we find the sweet spot for a workout routine? Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Start out slow. If migraines are a regular companion, “light to moderate exercise is usually very safe,” advises Corvini.

  2. Trade high-intensity activities for lower-intensity options. Brisk walking, swimming, or biking on a flat surface are all excellent choices. Save interval and CrossFit training for no more than once a week.

  3. Don’t get your heart rate too high if you’re exercise-sensitive. An especially sensitive exercise enthusiast may need to keep their heart rate under 60% of its maximum. Use this formula to calculate: (220 – your age) x .60 = 60% of your max heart rate. If your heart rate goes too high, it’s time to tone the workout down.

  4. Avoid triggers when you work out. If light sets you off, schedule your workouts in the early morning or late afternoon and don’t forget to wear sunglasses. Skip gyms with those blinding overhead lights. If lack of sleep is an issue, make sure you work out after getting a good night’s rest.

  5. Normalize your routine. As Dr. Jones advises, “Eat, sleep, and exercise at the same times each day.” This helps maintain your body’s natural equilibrium, which can fend off migraines.

  6. Fuel your body. Stay hydrated and eat protein about an hour and a half before your workout to keep your blood sugar stable.

  7. Talk to your doctor. Before starting any exercise routine, have a chat with your doctor to make sure that your symptoms really are migraines and not another health condition.

Remember, finding the right balance may require some trial and error. But with these tips and a little perseverance, you’ll be able to navigate the realm of exercise and migraines like a pro.

So, let’s get moving – together we can conquer migraines and kick some serious exercise butt!

Original content from WebMD: source