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Swedish Study Suggests Exercise Is As Good As Other Migraine Treatments

By February 2, 2012

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We've probably all received countless prescriptions for the "maintain-a-healthy-lifestyle-that-includes-regular-exercise" pill. And I'll be the first to admit that on more than one occasion, I've dusted off my running shoes, downloaded my favorite 80s repertoire of exercise music inspiration, and spent an unmentionable amount of effort choosing the perfect spandex attire - but somehow I've never been able to make it stick.

Well here's new inspiration -- real proof that exercise can make a difference. A recent study by researchers at the Sahhlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden shows that exercise may be just as good as prescription drugs and relaxation techniques, at treating migraines . The researchers randomly assigned patients who suffer from migraines to one of three groups. In the first group, patients received the drug topiramate. Patients in the second group underwent relaxation techniques with a psychotherapist. In the third group, patients were told to exercise for 40 minutes, 3 times a week with a physiotherapist. All of the patients were evaluated after 3 and 6 month periods. In every single group, all patients showed a reduction in migraines - with no group doing better than another. The researchers hope that these findings are especially promising for patients who want to consider alternative migraine treatments .

So what more can I say other than, "...let's get physical, physical..."(I couldn't resist sharing Ms. John's 80s classic - sorry if it's stuck in your head now).

To learn more about the study read:

Exercise as migraine prophylaxis: A randomized study using relaxation and topiramate as controls

February 3, 2012 at 1:04 am
(1) Anne Bülow-Olsen says:

This study gives us two messages. Exercise has a beneficial effect on migraines, and the effect of the prescription preventive medicine Topiramate is not impressive.

Looking at the side effects of exercise and Topiramate, exercise is by far the better, not just for the migraines, but also for our general well being.

See also http://www.migraeniker.dk/en/annes-blog/1078-jeg-vaelger-motion-frem-for-forebyggende-medicin

February 15, 2012 at 9:31 am
(2) inga says:

I have been learning how to manage my migraines for 25 years now and suffer 8-12/month. My saying this is only anecdotal, but regular exercise has had the single largest impact on my life. This is, of course, correlated with a lower BMI and body fat composition along with other factors. (I also have PCOS, so there are hormonal issues at play as well). The catch is that for someone like me, when exercise is also a trigger, it can be difficult to actually get going, but once you get past the threshold things get much, much better. Just start out slow and ramp it up when you can. Exercise, a healthy diet, (and yes, a couple of prescription drugs) are the key to happiness in my life. Without exercise, I would live in a dark cave of pain.

February 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm
(3) Gwenyth says:

I agree with the first comment that this seems to prove mainly that Topiramate and relaxation are not very effective in preventing migraines. know in mt case that Topiramate did nothing for migraines but caused paraesthesia in my fingers and made me forgetful. Relaxation is great, but I frequently get my worst migraines when I wake up after a restful sleep. As for exercise, it invariably causes severe migraines unless I take prophylactic painkillers and a strong anti-histamine like Diohenhydramine or Phenergan at least one hour before. But I still do try make sure I do 30-50 minutes a day of running on a treadmill. The treadmill is great, because I can get off it immediately if I get an aura. Most effective in preventing migraines, however, at least for me is total and constant hydration. For me, it does not have to be water, but I try to keep the sugar level low and definitely avoid alcohol.

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