Migraine disease and exercise is a tricky topic. Research suggests exercise helps but exercise can also be a major migraine trigger.

I have been attempting to exercise because I need to lose weight to help with my mild sleep apnea. Problem is, I gained weight due to inactivity from my vertigo problems. Doing anything at all makes the vestibular issues go nutbars. I do have a stationary bike and in the early morning when I take my medication for vertigo the symptoms are Less severe, I can exercise to a degree. And then, the symptoms are much worse. But I can do it. I think it is necessary or I will really begin to lose muscle mass. And if the vertigo is vestibular migraine- exercise may be beneficial. And if not, it is beneficial for fibromyalgia and migraine disease both. Just extremely challenging.

Exercise releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins also induce positive feelings and a sense of well-being which can be especially beneficial for those living with migraine, as they face an increased risk of anxiety and depression. Additionally, exercise can improve sleep quality and consistency and help relieve stress, which are common migraine triggers.

American Migraine Foundation

Several studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can help make migraines come less often and make them less severe, says Nada Hindiyeh, MD, a clinical assistant professor of neurology.

Title: For migraine disease does exercise help or hinder?
Subtext: Does exercise help with our migraine management? Or trigger migraine attacks?
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Recent research suggests 2/3 of migraine patients do not get sufficient exercise

It further found that only 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise reduced migraine triggers like stress, poor sleep, and depression.

Regular exercise may be able to help with intensity and frequency of our migraine attacks.

The survey had 4647 participants. Approximately three-fourths had chronic migraine (more than 15 migraine attacks a month), and the remainder had episodic migraine.

They were segmented into: Do not exercise; Exercised up to 30 minutes per week; Exercised 31 to 90 minutes; Exercised 91 to 150 minutes; and Exercised more than 150 minutes per week.

Types of exercises that were included to be moderate to vigorous were such things as bicycling, heavy cleaning, jogging, brisk walking or playing a sport.

Only about 27% reported the highest level of exercise. Those with less than 150 min/week reported more depression, anxiety and sleep problems:

  • Almost half reported depression in those who got no exercise, compared to 25% who exercised the most
  • 39% of those who got no exercise reported anxiety; 28% anxiety was reported in those who exercised the most
  • 77% of those who got no exercise had sleep problems, and this falls to 61% in the group that exercised the most.

They also found there was an association between exercise and increased frequency of migraine attacks. Those who didn’t exercise almost half at 25 or more migraine attacks a month. Only 28% of the high exercise group had 25 or more a month.

Exercise-triggered migraine attacks

Research shows that 38% of people in the study had a migraine triggered from exercise. More than half stopped that type of exercise due to the migraine attacks.

Exercise induced migraines tend to be triggered from more vigorous or strenuous exercises:

  • weightlifting
  • rowing
  • running
  • tennis
  • swimming
  • football

Although we have to remember there can be compounding triggers like light or sound. And often with exercise induced migraines environmental factors like exercising in hot, humid weather or high altitudes can factor in as well.

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So the main things that may help with decreasing the chances of exercise induced migraine attacks are:

  • The type of exercise you choose to do
  • The conditions you exercise in. Exercising in cool or air-conditioned environments is best. Exercising in the morning when it is cooler.
  • Staying hydrated
  • Spend the time to warm up and cool down from exercise
  • And, of course, pay attention to your usual triggers. And sleep, stress management.
  • And remember if you’re just starting to start very slow and work your way up

My goals

So I have been doing the stationary bike, short walks and some physio exercises to strengthen weakened muscles. Not all in the same day.

I think a decent goal is to work up to that 2.5 hours a week. So far on the stationary bike I can do 15 minutes (but that is on level 1 so that isn’t really sufficient yet). I literally just got to that 15 minutes. And, man, that took a bit. And I can’t do that every day.

I have to work my way up to something like 25 minutes (Maybe on level 2-3) and 25 minute walks before I achieve that goal. And trust me, even without vertigo That would take a Lot of time with fibromyalgia. So I have no idea how long that will take with my vestibular disorder complicating the issue. We shall see if it will even let me get to that point.

But the way I see it, any exercise is good exercise, even if I don’t make it to that goal. I am moving. My muscles are moving. That is good. All that down time and rest time has really screwed my muscles up. And no matter how sick and dizzy it makes me I have to repair that damage. Or risk losing some serious functionality because of this vertigo.

Thing is, in no way will this help in actual weight loss. It’s just not sufficient. So that will take some calorie reduction. I don’t actually eat a lot of calories but I don’t Use a lot either. So it makes sense to eat less and monitor that. Eat Well, and less intake. Exercise is simply to maintain muscles- and possibly help with pain.

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2 thoughts on “For migraine disease does exercise help or hinder?

  1. You are amazing. I can’t imagine dealing with vertigo and moving at all. I learned early on that if I move, I do feel better. The PT I went to in the pain program would have me get on the tread mill for 20 minutes and after coming in in pain and down, I’d feel so much better (mood and pain) afterwards. Also, the extra bonus when I get outside (for me in the woods or lake) makes me feel even better. However, when I’m not feeling well, it sure is difficult to get up and do this, even though I know it usually helps a lot.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah as long as I take mefs to suppressed it a bit I can handle some exercise in the morning. And it dies help with some migraine symptoms so that’s cool. But it aggvates the vestibular symptoms so that’s not good. But I need to maintain some level of physical well-being

      Liked by 1 person

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