Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

“Riverdance” – Migraine & Exercise

Migrane Awareness Month

It’s an aggravating paradox: regular exercise can reduce migraine frequency and severity, but exercise can also trigger migraine attacks. Finding the right balance requires going slowly and being gentle, both in the activity and in your assessment of your effort.

Last time I exercised, I was up to 30 minutes at a whopping 2 MPH on the treadmill. Comparing this to the run distances and times friends post on Facebook is more than a little demoralizing. I don’t break a sweat and my muscles don’t hurt the next day. I feel lazy and weak until I remind myself that my runner friends are also healthy. Taken in the context of having exercise-triggered migraine attacks, my workout stats are an impressive feat for someone who was sedentary a few months ago.

Did you notice that last paragraph begins with, “Last time I exercised…”? Although I try to exercise every day, and some weeks do manage to do so, I’m still a chronic migraineur prone to good and bad spells. After being knocked out for a week with a migraine and using all my energy the next week to catch up with everything that fell to the wayside during the attack, I’m just back to where I can exercise again. I fear 30 minutes at 2 MPH will seem like a marathon compared to what I can do after this setback.

When it comes to exercise, I can only imagine myself as I believe I should be: a strong, healthy, active 30-something. The reality is that I have a chronic illness that has gradually caused me to grow further and further out of shape for the last 10 years.

So I’m learning to applaud my baby steps. To not compare my exercise to that of others or even to my previous days. I increase my speed or duration just a tiny bit every week or two, depending on how much exercise I’ve managed to do. I also try to accommodate setbacks after a long migraine spell. I tell myself that this is not a contest and any exercise is better than none; that just getting on the treadmill is a huge step in the right direction. Sometimes I even believe myself.

This post is in response to Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge #16, “Riverdance: Have you found a way to work exercise or movement into your life with migraine/headache disorder? What is it?”

Learn more about the 2013 MHAM Blog Challenge and other MHAM events by visiting: 2013 Migraine & Headache Awareness Month Information Page

June, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is issued by FightingHeadacheDisorders.com

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • shine4him
    6 years ago

    Hey, that’s a great job! At least you’re not just sitting on the couch. My migraines are aggravated by exercise, too, so I have to just plan on working out during my off-days.

    And just as an encouragment, don’t limit yourself on the goals you set! I’m working on getting my black belt in karate. Another friend of mine, Ted, has 24/7 migraines yet has run several full marathons. He even wrote a book about it! (“Lessons From a Headache” by Ted Goodwin). Just keep on keepin’ on. 🙂

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the encouragement! I’m constantly trying to figure out how to balance my triggers given my current constraints… which seem to be ever-changing.

  • lisacooper
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the advice, Kerrie. I keep stressing about what to do about my 12-year-old with chronic migraine when he’s had a bad stretch. I definitely need to readjust my expectations of what he’s capable of and what constitutes being a good mom to him now that his life has changed so much from last year.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    I’m so sorry you have to sort this out for your young son. He’s lucky to have a mom who tries so hard to understand what he’s going through. Hang in there.

  • body
    6 years ago

    I like your philosophy, Keri. Exercise has always been a big part of my life. Running including, tennis, and skiing were my favorites but when I entered the world of chronic migraine, I also went into the phase “exercise interrupted”. Apart from running (the pounding set off my neck), I am back to my regular activities but at my own pace. My progress was slow and some days I could barely walk a mile, but I persisted. I agree with “shill”, keep up the good work.

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thanks for your support! I’m so glad to hear you’ve been able to figure out a way to get exercise into your life.

  • sandramhill
    6 years ago

    Keep up the good work! I used to exercise all the time my whole life but since my migraines have gotten worse over the past years, I don’t exercise at all because of that fear of getting a migraine. I do move a lot in my daily life but don’t want to try any work outs. Good luck! Sandy

  • Kerrie Smyres moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your experience. It seems like exercise, as well as many other aspects of migraine, are all about balance — finding the right level of exercise to help the migraines without pushing over into a trigger. It’s great that you move regularly in daily life even without exercise.

  • Poll