Exercising with Migraine

According to Alan M. Rapoport, M.D., director of The New England Center for Headache in Stamford, Conn., migraine sufferers who exercise regularly report fewer and less severe headaches. But how they approach exercise can make a critical difference in whether they experience relief or risk triggering an attack.

Common psychological triggers include stress, depression and anger. Altitude, humidity and sun exposure are common environmental triggers. Physical triggers can range from lack of sleep to premenstrual hormonal fluctuations to certain foods, such as red wines, hot dogs, citrus fruits, cheeses and foods containing caffeine.

When started too quickly, exercise can be another physical trigger. Portuguese researchers discovered that sudden heavy physical exertion releases high levels of nitric oxide into the bloodstream of migraine-prone individuals, prompting the dilation of blood vessels and the onset of a migraine headache within the next several hours.

Most experts agree that an adequate warm up can prevent such episodes and that exercise can be a helpful tool for decreasing the severity and frequency of migraine headaches.
The key is to perform a slow and thorough warm up each and every time and if you’re new to exercise, build your program slowly.

The following head isolation is a great way to relax the neck muscles. It can be performed during a warm up, cool-down, or throughout the day whenever you need to release some tension. Stand or sit tall.

Place your hands on your hips and relax your shoulders. Slowly tilt your head to the right, and hold the position for 10 to 15 seconds as you breathe naturally. Slowly tilt your head to the left, and hold for another 10 to 15 seconds. Continue by alternating sides for a total of 5 to 6 repetitions on each side.