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Headaches And Migraines: Can Exercise Really Help?

Let’s be honest, when suffering from a headache or migraine, exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. Even after a migraine or headache, exercise most likely doesn’t sound like a desirable activity. Exercise may even trigger a migraine, but is it really the cause??

Research suggests that there is a correlation between the two, but it’s the type of exercise performed that matters. Moderate AEROBIC exercise has shown to produce a natural opioid effect in the human body when pain is present and may also act as a prophylactic. When the brainstem is “sensitized”, it is able to be desensitized with the natural opioid effects of exercise. Medications prescribed for migraines (those in the Triptan family) provide a similar effect by desensitizing the brainstem. If given the choice, wouldn’t you prefer some moderate exercise? Unlike medications, the side effects of exercise are non-existent and it has shown to decrease depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and increase self-confidence!

Research shows that those who suffer from migraines and are regularly physically active, are able to decrease the frequency and duration of their attacks. So, what types of exercises are considered aerobic? Here are a few examples:

  • Walking

  • Running (for those that run at a medium pace for a prolonged period of time)

  • Biking

  • Low- to Medium-impact Yoga

Along with good sleep, healthy diet, water intake, and low stress, exercise is one more piece of the puzzle to add.

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