Avoid Exercise-Related Migraines

Avoid Exercise-Related Migraines

Talk about a double-edged sword. There are so many benefits to exercising if you’re prone to migraines. But for some people, a sweat session can actually trigger one of these painful pounders. On the plus side, “Exercise is a potent stress reliever, and stress is commonly linked to migraine attacks,” says Timothy Houle, PhD, associate professor in the Pain Mechanisms Lab at Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Whether it’s due to its ability to tame tension or some other benefit, regular exercise has been shown in studies to both prevent migraines and make those you do get less severe. 

You should be able to get some comfort from that if you get these headaches. Why? Because other aspects of exercise — not the physical activity itself — may be causing your headache.

“There could be other variables at play that aren’t managed well,” says Lucy Rathier, PhD, clinical associate professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. For instance, you may not have warmed up or eaten properly or taken enough fluids before working out. “I treated a runner once who kept getting migraines because she wasn’t well hydrated,” Rathier says. But when she started drinking enough water, her migraines disappeared.

If you’ve been avoiding exercise to prevent a migraine, consider a workout routine that follows these tips. With a little luck, maybe your headaches will disappear too.

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Drink Up

Our bodies are 60% water. It’s important to keep them that way. If you deal with migraines, you’re more prone to the effects of not enough fluids. “Most people are not well-hydrated to begin with, and when you add the stress of exercise, it can push you over the edge,” says Noah Rosen, MD, director of the Headache Center at North Shore-LIJ Health System’s Cushing Neuroscience Institute.

In one study, people who drank 4 more cups of water a day than they normally did had 21 fewer hours of migraine pain during a 2-week period. They also noticed that their headaches weren’t as bad.

To be sure you’re well hydrated, check your urine. If it’s consistently colorless or light yellow, you’re most likely drinking enough. Dark yellow or amber-colored urine is a sign you need to drink more.

Talk with your trainer or doctor about other ways, such as weighing yourself before and after exercising, to know whether you’re getting enough fluids.

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