Exercise and migraines — to those who have had these debilitating headaches, this may sound like an impossible combination. Before we explore it further, however, let’s look at what migraines are.
Migraines are the 3rd most prevalent illness worldwide, affecting 39 million in the United States and 1 billion worldwide. Women are affected 3 times more often than men. In the US, 1 out of every 4 households has someone in it that has migraines. Migraines are most commonly experienced between the ages of 25 and 55. As many as 90 percent of people with migraines have a family member that also has migraines. While some people only get migraines on occasion, there are others that get them almost daily.
Migraines are not just bad headaches. They are neurological in origin and are accompanied by neurological symptoms. The symptoms include the following:
- Throbbing or pulsating head pain that is moderate to severe and intensifies with movement
- It may only affect one side of the head, but in a third of the cases it affects both sides
- The pain may be felt anywhere around the head or neck
- Pain increases over a 1- to 2-hour period
- The head pain lasts anywhere from 4 to 72 hours
- Nausea and vomiting are often present
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and certain odors
If you have a migraine with an aura, you will have some type of warning sign that comes on before a migraine. These warning signs:
- May come before or at the same time as the head pain begins
- May occur without head pain
- Usually take about 5 to 20 minutes to develop and last less than 60 minutes
- Most commonly auras are visual disturbances but can also be motor, sensory, or a combination
- The most common positive visual phenomenon is an arc or a band of absent vision with a shimmering or glittering zigzag border
Physical symptoms during migraines may include:
- Head or neck tenderness
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
In order to diagnose a migraine, patient history is vital. The International Headache Society has certain diagnostic criteria. For one thing, patients must have had at least 5 migraine attacks that lasted from 4 to 72 hours with at least two of the following criteria:
- Unilateral location
- A pulsating quality
- Moderate to severe pain
- Made worse by routine physical activity such as walking or climbing stairs
To learn more about the connection between head and neck injuries and migraines download our complimentary e-book Natural and Drug-Free Ways to End Your Migraines by clicking the image below.
The patient must have also had at least one of the following:
- Light sensitivity
- Sound sensitivity
These symptoms must not be able to be attributed to any other disorder.
Can Migraines Be Helped Through Exercise?
Research is being conducted suggesting that regular cardiovascular exercise can help to keep migraines at bay. A study done in Sweden noted patients with migraines had fewer of them after doing 40-minute cycling workouts 3 times a week for 3 months. This was comparable to results of one of the top migraine drugs, topiramate, without the side effects of depression, tremors, and cognitive impairment. Aerobic workouts were also seen to help with regular migraines, according to the director of the New York Headache Center in Manhattan, NY.
Why does this help? A couple of theories may apply:
- Breaking out in a sweat may be a stress reliever. Since migraines are often triggered by stress and you are eliminating the trigger, the migraines do not start.
- Endorphins may play a role. These feel-good chemicals are released when you exercise and they actually work as blockers to your pain sensors. They are natural painkillers.
It is important to note since migraines are often brought about by many different factors, such as genetics, lack of sleep, or certain foods, exercise is not going to work in every situation. However, one study in Germany found that 65 percent of people with migraines were helped making it as effective as the best meds on the market.
It is recommended that patients do a half hour of some type of moderate cardiovascular exercise, such as jogging, biking, or swimming, three times a week. These should be slow and steady workouts, not high intensity. Overexerting yourself can trigger headaches, so keep your heart rate no higher than 150 BPM. If you do not have a heart rate monitor, then breathe only through your nose. This will help you see if you are exercising too hard if you cannot keep a regular breathing pattern.
Additional Help for Migraines
While exercise is very important to help ward off migraines, sometimes more help is needed. It has been noted by various case studies that migraines are often related to a misalignment of the bones of the upper cervical spine. The C1 and C2 vertebrae are susceptible to misalignments due to such things as whiplash, sporting accidents, and simple trips and falls. A misalignment in this part of the neck puts stress on the brainstem and causes it to send improper signals to the brain. Blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow to the brain can also be hindered by this type of misalignment. These things can easily cause migraines to occur.
Here at Atlas Chiropractic in Taylor, Texas, we use a gentle method to encourage the bones to move back into their proper place. We do not need to resort to popping or cracking the neck to get positive results. A case study done of 101 people with migraines proves that this type of care works. Most of them saw an improvement in or an elimination of their migraines in only one or two adjustments.
To schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Seivert call 512-352-1300 or just click the button below.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.