8 Things I Learnt About Exercise for Migraine from the 2019 Migraine World Summit

Exercise is an evidence-based therapy for migraine. This idea really stuck with me after I watched the interview with Mattias Linde PhD on Day 5 of the Migraine World Summit. Regular exercise can help prevent migraine attacks, and reduce the number of attacks sufferers endure.

Screenshot of video with Dr Mattias Linde

This is such good news, as it’s another reminder that there are things we can do to help ourselves battle migraine. It doesn’t just come down to medication, lifestyle, diet and exercise are also important factors for managing this condition well.

The Migraine World Summit is an excellent resource for us migraineurs. Each year they gather experts from around the globe to discuss the latest research, treatment ideas and approaches to treating migraine. This was the first year I tuned in, after my chronic migraine diagnosis last year. I have to admit I cried during more than one talk, it was such a relief to hear this disorder discussed with some clarity and a whole lot of hope. We have new treatments coming, and more being researched. One day living with chronic migraine will be so very different to how it is today.

The exercise nerd in me was very excited to watch the talk on exercise for migraine. I had already started planning this blog, and had been getting good results personally from my new movement routine. However, watching Mattias Linde go through the science behind prescribing exercise for migraine really gave me the boost I needed to get this project started.

I would encourage you to purchase the pass to watch all of the summit if you can, I’m still making my way through the talks I missed and it’s inspirational viewing. For now though, I will share with you my favourite take-aways from Dr Linde’s research.

1. Exercise can help prevent attacks for episodic migraine sufferers

This was the biggest news for me. We now have scientific evidence that exercise can reduce the frequency of episodic migraines. In the study that tested this, they worked out on stationary bikes for 30mins a time, 3 times per week. This is absolutely manageable, and such a great thing to remember. By moving our body we really can help our head.

2. Exercise can be a trigger for some people, so it’s important to know HOW to move in a way that doesn’t set off an attack

It’s important not to forget that exercise and exertion generally can be triggers for some people. I know they are for me, which is one reason I avoided doing anything much at all for 6 months. However there are ways that this can be managed. More on this below…

3. Make sure to warm up first

The best protection against triggering a migraine is to go slowly when shifting from a sedentary to active state. This applies both long term and short term, but each time you work out you need to warm your body up first. If you’re out for a walk, start slowly then pick up the pace. If you’re at the gym, hop on the treadmill or bike at a low speed to get started.

4. Hydration is super important

This applies all day for migraineurs, but it is particularly important to drink enough water while you are working out.

5. Manage your blood sugar

Again, this is good to remember all day but when you exercise your blood sugar can drop more rapidly. I try to eat 1-2hrs before working out, and then again within an hour or so afterwards. Don’t have a huge meal, but something light and nutritious like a bowl of cereal or egg on toast.

6. Chronic migraine might also benefit from exercise, but we need more evidence

The reality is, it’s incredibly hard to exercise with chronic migraine. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and it doesn’t mean it won’t help, but at this point we are lacking evidence to concretely say that it will. For me personally it has been helpful, but I have to set myself limitations rather than goals, which is a whole new approach to moving my body.

7. Consider your exercise environment carefully

Thinking about where to exercise is really important for migraineurs. Consider lighting, temperature, how busy it will be. Perhaps exercising at home is best, or maybe you will be more likely to move if you go with a buddy. Each of us has unique triggers, so consider yours before starting out.

8. There are still many questions that science hasn’t answered, but new research is happening all the time

This was the hopeful message I took from this talk, and actually all of the Migraine Summit talks. Change is coming, and we are finally understanding more about migraine each and every day.

If you’ve seen it, what did you take away from the Summit?

If you haven’t yet watched the videos, I highly recommend purchasing the pass

  • and nope I’m not paid to say that! I just found it really valuable.
  • Post by Emily Cordes
  • Jun 17, 2019
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