Headache and exercise

Are headache and exercise linked?  Some people seem to think that exercise can solve all your problems.  Is exercise really a benefit to you if you suffer from migraine, or chronic headache?  This is what one migraineur has to say about the headache and exercise connection:

If you suffer from migraine headaches as I did for years, I'd like to let you in on something that helped me not only reduce the number of migraines I had but also reduce the duration of each one.

It's not a drug or any sort of device or product you have to buy or wear and this isn't a sales pitch for any kind of expensive information product. It's free and it may well be something you never considered before. It's also something that could help you in many other areas of your life in unexpected ways.

I was in my early teens when I suffered my first migraine headache and had absolutely no idea what was happening to me but the pain was like nothing I had felt before and I was almost certain I was dying. The thought that death might be preferable to the headache certainly occurred to me.

For many years it seemed I had a migraine more often than not. Many times I was incapacitated as a result of the pain, making it difficult to hold down a job, make social commitments, or be a normal functional individual.

Of course I tried all of the medications available to control the migraines, but more often than not, the side effects were worse than any benefits the medication offered. There may be better meds available now with more acceptable or fewer side effects and you should explore the rest of James' site to learn about them - I simply haven't tried anything stronger than Advil since making the following discovery.

I discovered a better answer for me quite by accident when I joined the YMCA with a friend as an inexpensive activity I could do with my young children. I undertook a fitness program and as I became more and more fit over several weeks and months, it struck me as pleasantly odd that I was having fewer migraines. WAY fewer!

Instead of migraines occurring weekly and lasting for days, the new pattern was to get a migraine very infrequently (relatively speaking), perhaps every month or two and lasting no more than a day or 2.

While I don't know the scientific reasons for my results or that fitness is the right answer for every migraine sufferer, I do know that it made a huge impact on my life and my enjoyment of it. Better health, slim and defined body, vastly increased confidence, improved energy and stamina are among the incidental benefits.

I still get the occasional migraine, but my lifestyle has improved beyond measure. The benefits of fitness and good nutrition led me to become a fitness instructor at the YMCA and, a couple of years ago, to earn certification as a fitness trainer with ISSA. It's my hope that my little story might encourage you to pursue fitness as a possible treatment for your migraines.

Cindy Brotherston, CFT
(First published in the June 2004 edition of HeadWay)

Why Exercise can help you!

Not convinced? Think you're better off just taking a pill? Don't see the connection between headache and exercise? Here's how exercise makes a difference if you are dealing with headaches.

» Reduced muscle tension You know, all that tension that makes you feel tired out all the time, that makes you not want to exercise in the first place? Another headache and exercise link.
» Reduced anxiety which makes it easier to cope with any kind of pain
» Toned up blood vessels, a place where an important part of the migraine and headache chain-reaction often takes place.
» Increased relaxation in general
» Increased blood and lymph circulation That means more oxygen in (an important headache-fighter), and more toxins out!
» Reduced fatigue Some people believe that fatigue itself is a migraine trigger, or perhaps the lack of exercise that results.
» Improved sleep, more sleep Very important for the migraineur for a number of reasons!
» Improved digestion This means more nutrients that your body needs, and quick removal of toxins.
» Muscles less likely to spasm and trigger a headache.
» Blocking of “bad” chemicals Exercise causes complex chemical changes in the brain. Some believe that when some of these “good” chemicals start flowing, they actually block the “bad” chemicals that can be part of the migraine chain-reaction.
» Increased endomorphins in the body. Endomorphins are your body's natural painkillers. They also help you feel better overall. The problem is that endomorphin levels often seem to be low in migraineurs, and frequent use of painkillers can lower the level still further. If you can increase the endomorphins through exercise, you're decreasing your need for other painkillers and ending the downward spiral. Endomorphins are a huge headache and exercise bonus.

What if you had a pill that did all that? And that's only a few of the benefits that directly impact people with headaches. We could list many more. Why not give exercise a second chance? You may find that the headache and exercise link could change your life!

Read this excellent article on studies about headache and exercise by Maureen Williams, ND

Is exercise giving you headaches? Find out how to stop the pain!

Ready to start? Here are some headache and exercise tips...

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