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Aerobic exercise wards off migraines

11th October 2011

Getting aerobic exercise regularly can help people cure their migraines just as well as other therapies, according to a recent Swedish study.

Headache

The researchers found that regular aerobic exercise worked just as well as relaxation therapy or topiramate, an antiepileptic drug which is sometimes given to prevent severe migraines.

Lead researcher Emma Varkey, of the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg, said that getting regular aerobic exercise also benefitted people by increasing their usual oxygen uptake.

In the study, the researchers wrote that the non-pharmacological approach studied by her team would be an option for the prophylactic treatment of migraine in patients who did not benefit from or did not want daily medication.

They also wrote that having a migraine therapy that did not involve using drugs would be of great value to people, since patients often requested treatments that did not involve using them.

For the study, the researchers randomly assigned 91 study subjects to either exercise with a stationary bike for three months, take a relaxation therapy, or take topiramate.

All 91 of the study subjects came from a single clinic, all were between 18 and 65 years of age, and all got headaches between two and eight times a month.

The researchers found that all of the treatments reduced women's migraines by nearly the same amount.

Varkey said that, while topiramate was the first-choice drug for most migraine studies, it was surprising that the number of migraine attacks did not change much between those taking topiramate, those undergoing relaxation therapy, and those getting regular aerobic exercise.

She said that, however, topiramate offered the advantage of reducing people's pain when they had migraines.

Of the women who took part in the study, eight women taking topiramate reported feeling side effects.

Those side-effects included fatigue, depressed mood, vertigo, and constipation.

The researchers wrote that they believed people should be aware that patients who reported migraines were less physically active than the general population, and that exercise had the added benefit of increasing overall well-being.

Varkey said that, while the finding was hopeful, additional studies were needed in order to verify the results.

 

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