Exercise is as good as drugs for migraine

Yet another study finds that exercise is as good for the prevention of migraines as drugs. The research report in journal Cephalalgia by Swedish doctors shows that 40 minutes of exercise three times a week was as effective as taking topiramate (Topamax) or doing relaxation exercises. Topiramate is one of the most popular drugs for the prevention of migraine headaches, but it can have many potential serious side effects, including kidney stones in 20% of patients, glaucoma, memory and other cognitive problems. The same group of researcher published a large study of over 46,648 Swedes which showed a strong inverse correlation between exercise and any type of headaches, including migraines. So, before resorting to drugs or even Botox injections it is worth trying a regimen of avoiding triggers such caffeine, adhering to a regular sleep schedule, taking magnesium and other supplements, and regular exercise.

  1. Doug T. says: 02/20/20137:45 am

    I don’t know if anyone is familiar this or to what extent it can be reproduced but the other day I cured a headache by weightlifting. It required pushing up to my lifting limit and straining a little. Hopefully this can help others as well.

    Best regards,

  2. Dr. Mauskop says: 10/23/201110:58 pm

    It is not always necessary to give up vigorous exercise because of migraines. Spinning involves repeated sudden increases in the effort which may trigger a migraine, but sustained steady cycling may not. If it still does, taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (such as ibuprofen/Advil, naproxen/Aleve or aspirin/Migralex) just before exercise (or right after if the headache occurs an hour or two after exercise) may prevent migraine from occurring. After a couple of weeks the medication can be stopped and headaches may not return. Exercise-induced headaches are more common in people who do not exercise regularly.

  3. Christina says: 10/16/20112:32 pm

    And then there’s exercise-induced migraine, which has been a problem for me in the past. I came across a paper published about this years ago and realized that I was getting a migraine every single time I took a spinning class, which raised my heart rate fast and many times over the course of an hour. The headaches always came on at least a couple of hours later so I never connected the two until I read that paper. Now I walk three miles a day and practice yoga.

  4. NY71 says: 09/29/201111:30 pm

    Thank you, your blog is superb.

  5. Dr. Mauskop says: 09/29/20114:02 pm

    The dose of Topamax that caused 20% of people to have kidney stones was between 100 and 200 mg, which is the recommended dose for headaches. Other side effects, such as memory difficulties can occur with as little as 25 mg, but other people can take 300 – 400 mg without a problem. However, if Topamax does not help, you should definitely talk to your doctor about stopping it (gradually).

  6. NY71 says: 09/29/201112:29 am

    Thanks for the insight, ive always felt exercise has been helpful
    For me personally w/ HA, as has diet modification to avoid triggers.

    Regarding topiramate, is there a particular dosage or timescale that is critical or most likely to lead to the more harmful Side effects? I’ve been on 100 mg for 22 months, I cannot say it has had a noticeable effect on HA frequency.

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