Exercise — Why It Works
Exercise plays much the same role with migraines as sleep. When done in an appropriate and consistent manner, exercise can be a wonderful preventative tool for warding off headaches. However, it can also be a primary migraine trigger.
Moderate aerobic exercise is beneficial to many aspects of our lives, and not only to assure us of looking good in a bathing suit. Getting a good workout releases endorphins, the painkillers naturally produced by our bodies. These endorphins serve multiple purposes in the body, but in this case, they can help relieve the pain of a migraine.
On the other hand, any major change in routine can trigger a migraine. When it comes to exercise, a new routine that is begun abruptly has the potential to cause a headache. It is generally thought that migraineurs have a more sensitive neurological system that makes them more susceptible to changes in routine, and exercise is no exception.
Weightlifting with particularly heavy weights, for example, frequently causes muscle spasms. These spasms can lead to headaches, even for those who do not typically have migraines, but the likelihood is greater for someone already predisposed to chronic headaches.
Certain types of exercise may be more prone to triggering migraines than others. Remember that secondary factors related to exercise can also trigger migraine; exercising with low blood sugar, or failing to stay hydrated while exercising, are prime conditions for winding up with a headache.
A good way to begin an exercise routine is slowly and gradually. Begin with a modified portion of the anticipated workout and exercise at a very low intensity for the first few days. Some physicians recommend starting an exercise regime with as little as ten to fifteen minutes a day. As the body becomes fitter and more accustomed to exercise, gradually increase the duration and intensity of workouts. For best results try working with a personal trainer, someone who can monitor progress and work with you to create an exercise plan.
Most forms of exercise are considered beneficial for those who suffer from migraines. Everything from jogging and walking to cycling, swimming in an indoor pool, yoga, and Tai Chi can be highly beneficial forms of exercise. Breaks in routine are difficult for migraine sufferers, so it is recommended to exercise on a daily basis.
Be aware that headache as a result of exercise does not necessarily mean that the exercise triggered a migraine. Based on research conducted at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, it has been seen that some patients who had headaches only during exercise actually suffered from heart disease. This somewhat rare condition, dubbed “cardiac headache,” is seen mostly in people over fifty years old who display other risk factors for heart problems. When in doubt, talk to a physician.