By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND
Healthnotes Newswire (May 28, 2009)—For many people suffering from migraines, exercise may be the last thing on their minds but just what the doctor should order. According to a study in Headache, an exercise program of indoor cycling won’t trigger migraines and may actually help keep them at bay.
Anyone who has migraines can tell you about the disabling pain that comes with them. Often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound, migraines can lead to missed days of school or work, and can interfere with quality of life.
Migraines may be triggered by certain foods, hormonal changes, bright lights, strong smells, too much or too little sleep, changes in the weather or season, and emotional or physical stress, including exercise. Since no studies have assessed specific exercise protocols for people with migraines, the authors of the new study designed a program with the goal of allowing migraine sufferers to improve their physical fitness without making their headaches worse.
Chasing migraine pain away
Twenty-six people took part in the three-month study. In the weeks before the trial, the participants had not been exercising regularly. At each of three weekly work out sessions, they were instructed to warm up for 15 minutes at a pace that the person identified as “moderate exertion,” then cycle at a “somewhat hard” to “hard exertion” level for 20 minutes, and cool down at the moderate level for five minutes. They kept diaries recording medication use and migraine frequency and intensity for one to three months before the trial and throughout the study.
The migraine sufferers improved their aerobic fitness levels significantly and their headaches did not get worse with the exercise. During the last month of treatment, the number of migraine attacks, number of days with migraine per month, headache intensity, and amount of headache medicine used decreased significantly compared with baseline levels. None of the people reported any side effects, and quality of life improved significantly after treatment.
• Warm up: When exercising, make sure to start slowly to avoid triggering a migraine.
• Balance your blood sugar: If you’re prone to episodes of low blood sugar, consider cutting caffeine and refined sugar out of your diet, as these can cause fluctuations in blood sugar that may trigger migraines in susceptible people.
• Give riboflavin a try: People who take large amounts (400 mg per day) of riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, could decrease the frequency and severity of their migraines.
• Go for an adjustment: Chiropractic care and craniosacral therapy offer benefits of improved circulation and pain relief to people living with migraines.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, and now sees patients in East Greenwich and Wakefield. Inspired by her passion for healthful eating and her own young daughters, Dr. Beauchamp is currently writing a book about optimizing children’s health through better nutrition.
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