If youâ€™ve experienced migraine, the pain of it will be all too familiar. Migraines are a more severe form of a headache, classified by throbbing pain on one side of the head. They can occur with an auraÂ (temporary sensory and vision disturbances) or without an aura.
Around 70% of people who experience migraines will experience themÂ without an aura, therefore they will have no warning signsÂ when a migraine is about to occur.
Migraines significantly impact peopleâ€™s daily lives, affecting their social interactions at work or with family and friends so understandably, people want to get rid of them fast or even better, prevent them if possible.
The main cause of migraines is unknown, however, it is said to be brought about by a change in the level of chemicals in the brain, causing the blood vessels to widen which then produces the severe throbbing pain on the one side of the head.
Whilst the main symptomÂ is the throbbing pain,Â however, other symptoms which are closely linked are nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound (usually associated with migraines with an aura).
Exercising regularly can help reduce the frequency of migraines because when you exercise your body releases mood-elevating endorphins which act as your bodyâ€™s natural painkiller. Exercise can lower stress levels, help to regulate sleep and tackle obesity; all of which are common migraine triggers.
Is exercising a trigger for migraines?
Some people might find that exercise triggers their migraines, this is formally known as exercise-induced migraine. It normally occurs when you usually do contact sports or high-intensity exercises such as weight lifting, rowing, swimming or running. This type of migraine is more likely to occur when you exercise in hot, humid conditions.
Migraines can occur during exercise when:
- You havenâ€™t had enough fluids before exercise which means you feel dehydrated.
- Your blood sugar levels drop if you havenâ€™t eaten enough before exercising.
- You carry out strenuous exercises.
- You exercise irregularly which causes your muscles to stridden and ache.
If you are prone to migraines, you may have found that strenuous exercise can actually provoke an attack. This may have made you avoid exercising as you have identified this as a trigger. If this is the case, then you are missing out on the benefits that exercise can bring to your overall wellbeing and migraine management.
How to manage your migraines with exercise
If you want to include exercise in your daily routine to help manage your migraines, the online pharmacy, PharmicaÂ have come up with five great ways how you can exercise effectively and safely.
- Choose the right exercise
Mild aerobic exercises will help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks. It is important that you choose less strenuous exercises which you enjoy. You should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Try this for around 6 weeks to allow give yourself time in your new routine before you try and assess the benefits of the exercises. Start at a low to moderate intensity, and gradually build up your routine as your stamina increases.
You should drink enough fluids before, during and after you exercise. When you exercise, you lose water through sweating, and if you are not replacing it quick enough, you will become dehydrated, triggering a migraine.
- Eat well
Aim to eat at least 90 minutes before you begin exercising to allow your food to be digested properly. When you exercise, your blood sugar levels drop, so it is important that you eat well beforehand to prevent a migraine from occurring. Protein-rich foods with some complex carbs (for example, protein bars) before exercising will ensure you have the energyÂ you needÂ for your workout regime.
- Warm up and cool down
Do not jump straight into your workout routine without a warm-up, and likewise, donâ€™t stop your workout suddenly without cooling down. Start your pace slowly and gradually build it up. For example, stretch and walk for a few minutes before you begin weight or resistance training. At the end of your workout, it is important to cool down and stretch your muscles to prevent building up tension and stiffness, both of which could trigger a migraine.
- Plan and have a routine
Aim to embed a regular routine into your lifestyle which includes exercise, eating healthy and regular bedtime. You will be able to observe what effect this will have on the frequency and intensity of your migraines.
Whilst some people may find that exercising triggers your migraines, it can also be seen as a form to manage them as well as long as you eat well and drink adequate amounts of fluid beforehand and ensure that you do not push yourself too hard initially. Start the pace slow and light before gradually increasing the intensity of your workout as you get more comfortable.
Siya Sagar is a content writer and currently works at Pharmica, an online pharmacy. When she is not working, she enjoys travelling, gym and food.