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Exercise: Just What the Dr. Ordered, for Migraines

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Dec 19, 2014 7:00:00 AM

There is absolutely no question that exercise is one of the best therapeutic activities that migraine patients can undertake. Exercise is the most important aspect of a healthy lifestyle, which in turn is known as the best effort that migraine patients can put forth for the purpose of preventing headache episodes. For the majority of migraine patients, prevention is very much attainable through moderate physical fitness.

When it comes to the therapeutic management of the migraine condition, there are two main approaches: Preventative and reactive. An example of a preventative approach would be avoiding known environmental triggers such as stressful noises, strobe lights and strong chemical scents. An example of a reactive approach would be to take a prescription painkiller right at the onset of an episode, typically during the aura phase. Exercise is part of the preventative approach to migraine management, but in some cases it can be a trigger.

Professional Athlets

Professional athletes who suffer from migraines know all about over exertion. Basketball star Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat is known to miss occasional games due to migraines. In Wade’s case, he knows that bright lights often get the best of him, which is why you may notice that he has developed a certain style of play that allows him to keep score and time the game without having to stare at the clock and the indoor arena lights next to it. On a couple of occasions, however, Wade has been placed on the injured reserve list of the Miami Heat after a particularly intense performance. In such cases, Wade’s migraine trigger was related to overexertion and not bright lights.


Too much exercise or poorly planned physical activities may trigger migraine episodes in some people. This is often related to dehydration, poor breathing, sports injuries and not warming up properly beforehand. It is important for migraine patients to check with their physicians about the types of exercise that they can engage in as part of preventative management strategy. With the foregoing in mind, yoga is the preferred physical activity among migraine patients, and it is often recommended by most doctors. With yoga, some poses have been proven to be better than others. Before trying the yoga exercises below, be sure to:

  • Be properly hydrated
  • Warm up with light stretching and walking
  • Be in a relaxed mood
  • Not be hungry

Light Eagle Pose

Sit down on a mat and cross your legs as best as you can. Spend a few seconds getting used to this position before bringing your arms forward and bent at the elbows as you alternate touching them with your free hand. The idea is to bring a feeling of stability to the shoulder area, which is often a pocket of stress.

Cat Pose

Your hands and knees should touch the floor as you arch your back as if you were a cat. You should exhale as you are arching your back and inhale as you allow gravity to bring your back down. The purpose is to stimulate spinal nerves in a positive manner and promote circulation to your head.

Seated Bend Forward

This classic yoga pose is also used in calisthenics and Pilates workouts. It is excellent for building flexibility and for feeling relaxed afterwards. Leaning forward to touch your toes as you are sitting down can give your thoracic area some much-needed relief, thereby preventing tension headaches that can turn into migraine episodes.

Child’s Resting Pose

This position is reminiscent of the genuflection that devoted Muslims assume when they pray. The idea is to kneel down completely on the floor and allowing the shoulders to extend fully forward. Most practitioners feel immense spinal relief when they practice this pose for extended period of times or as long as their flexibility and stamina allows it.

Knees to Chest

This is a pose that is known to promote overall circulation in the body. It is the classic tuck position, whereby you lay on your back and concentrate before slowly bringing your knees to your chest and holding them with your hands for as long as it feels relaxing to do so.

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