Exercise Tips for Migraine: What are the possibilities?
As a person living with chronic migraine, I would love to share some exercise tips for migraine that I hope help you on your journey. These have helped me on mine and sometimes it helps to find someone who has been there. It feels good to know you are not alone and someone understands. If you are in a pattern of severe migraine attacks you may be wondering if an exercise routine is even possible for you. I get it. This has been a struggle of mine.
As someone who has had a long-time passion for running and for some time lost that part of my life consistently I feel you. I know both sides. The benefits of exercise and the reality of not feeling well enough to do it. Find an honest story here and practical tips. You can also see there are options for the person with migraine to help you at different stages and meet a variety of needs.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate that means I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read the full disclosure for more information.
Why Exercise Matters
Exercise is a huge stress reliever and stress can be a very common migraine trigger. In fact, research says “Experts say they aren’t sure what causes migraine, but 4 in 5 people identify stress as a migraine trigger.” Exercise can not only relieve stress but give you those endorphins to feel better. These can be huge wins in your daily life and well-being. I know it may not always be easy, but if you can find a way it can make a big difference. Exercise can be a natural tool to help you stay well. It isn’t a cure, but it can be one part of your toolkit.
While running was my passion, the pounding of the pavement is not always migraine friendly. So some other options can be swimming, pilates, and yoga. Finding what works for each person is the secret to a successful exercise routine in the migraine journey.
Yoga was a game-changer for me. I found it to be a huge stress reliever, more gentle on my body and actually aids in migraine prevention. In fact, I remember there was a specific night that I had gone to a class. I left feeling completely relaxed and my symptoms were at their best. I got a call about a family issue that would have typically been a potential trigger. Instead, I was able to stay migraine free and took no medication. That was amazing and very telling of the power of exercise. It didn’t mean I stopped other treatments, but it did affirm that my migraine toolkit contained a variety of strategies and regimens.
Now, this doesn’t mean you have to give up on what you love. I still run and am working on getting back into a consistent routine. Running is still a part of who I am and something I enjoy doing. I am working on a new treatment plan and a consistent sleep pattern now that my little ones are getting older. With those things in place, I believe I can find a balance in my exercise routine.
Exercise Tips for Migraine: Making it Possible
Be Kind to Yourself
If you aren’t feeling well don’t push it. When in a migraine attack exercising won’t help. It will most likely make it worse. Instead, heal and rest. Then come back to exercise when you are stronger. You will have a better chance to recover quicker and be more consistent. Give yourself grace and remember your illness is causing this. You are not choosing this. You are choosing to take care of yourself so you can be better.
Be hydrated and fueled. Going into a workout dehydrated or hungry could actually trigger a migraine. While I have been tempted to just get it in, that is never a good idea. It is wise to plan for it. Put exercise on your calendar like a regular appointment. Then you can remember to be prepared. Enjoying this time is also the goal and worrying about a migraine following will steal that from you. Be prepared and allow this to be a time that contributes to your overall health.
Try New Things
Some of my most powerful exercise tips for migraine might be to have an open mind. As an avid runner, there have been times I almost felt depressed for feeling like I had lost that part of myself. As I mentioned I have also had to find balance with two little ones that I adore and lack of sleep. However, you throw in a weekly migraine or more and your exercise routine is greatly impacted. I used to run 5 days a week. What I learned is it is ok for things to look different.
If running has been your thing and pounding the pavement is too much, walking can be gentler for you. Paying attention to allergy triggers was a helpful factor related to my outdoor runs/walks. If this is a big trigger for you a treadmill could be an option on those tough days. I use a program that allows me to have trainer options, music, and some views from around the world. That said, that is not a must by any means. Sometimes you just need some good music or the time to yourself!
It is important to know you don’t have to lose the person you are or give up on your hopes. If things look different for a while, they can improve. Or maybe you find a new passion. This journey is one of hope, humbleness, and gratitude. I’m finding my way back to running, but along the way, I have found some new loves.
Yoga: Exercise and Migraine Prevention
Yoga can be a great option for people living with migraine. The benefits can go beyond exercise and actually help with migraine prevention. Stress can be a major migraine trigger and as I mentioned yoga can help reduce stress. In addition to this benefit practicing regularly could have an impact on the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. This may actually mean yoga could be one part of your migraine treatment plan in addition to your other medications or treatments agreed upon by you and your doctor.
There are also different types of yoga. Be sure to check with your health care professional before starting anything new and listen to your body. Dr. Well, from the American Migraine Foundation people with migraine should avoid classes with extreme heat. He also says you should tell your instructor of your history with migraines so they can offer pose options to make you more comfortable and if you have a condition that requires some modifications like a pinched nerve, trouble with your spine, or blood clots.
Your yoga instructors and healthcare providers can guide you in the right direction. Don’t be fooled. Yoga can be very relaxing and gentle. However, there are some types that can offer more of that feeling of a workout. I was after both. Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of caring for yourself, doing what is best for you, and keeping in check with your doctor.
My first class experience was slightly comical. I walked in and the instructor said this is an advanced class so be aware for those who are new. I said, “I am not sure I am in the right place, I think I will come back and try a different class.” She told me she believed things happened for a reason and that I should stay. Well, I gave it a go, but it was probably a bit comical. Not saying I recommend that. I am saying, get out there and give yourself a chance.
I have enjoyed these products in my own life. Find what you love and add that to yours.
Migraines continue to be a topic that is in research. As I continue on my journey I will share more of my honest experience with you. It is exciting to know migraine is starting to gain more attention and there are new treatments available to patients compared to what there used to be. Stay in touch with your doctor and stay hopeful.
I will be trying more new products and sharing more on migraine and the holidays as they are coming up. Come back here anytime for encouragement and resources. Join us in the Facebook group and reach out on the contact page for support or questions.
Exercise and Migraine. American Migraine Foundation. (2022a, December 1). https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/exercise-migraine/
Geng, C. (2021, June 10). Yoga for migraine: Evidence, poses, and more. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/yoga-for-migraine#poses
Santos-Longhurst, A. (2023, June 23). Migraines and stress. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-from-stress
Yoga for migraine treatment. American Migraine Foundation. (2022b, December 1). https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/yoga-and migraine/#:~:text=Yoga’s%20postures%2C%20deep%20breathing%20and,the%20disability%20associated%20with%20migraine
Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the medical and health area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any medical or health-related decisions. For your health-related questions, please seek the advice of a licensed physician or any other qualified health care provider immediately.