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Exercise: Treatment or Trigger

Living with migraine disease means dealing with many things that act as double swords. Exercise is definitely one of those things, acting as both preventative and trigger for a vast number of us. A randomized study from 2011, for example, found no significant difference between several preventative measures for migraine, including relaxation therapy, daily topiramate use, and 40 minutes of exercise conducted three times per week. That’s big news for people who cannot tolerate certain medications or prefer not to use them. However, more than a third of people with migraine also report exercise as a major trigger. In this video, Sarah discusses ways to recap the preventative benefits of regular exercise without triggering or worsening a migraine attack.

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


  • AdultOnsetM
    2 years ago

    It’s hard to take it easy when you’ve grown up with the habits of a competitive athlete but I agree it’s the best way.
    One tip I’ve found effective in combating exercise induced migraines is to hydrate copiously with water with electrolytes while working out. I use a coconut powder or other sports powders available at REI and would stay away from Gatorade-type drinks based on the neon bright artificial colors and high sugar content – at 56 grams per bottle, twice the daily maximum recommended under new guidelines.
    And a vent: it’s SO frustrating to be unable to get a rhythm going with workouts and strength-building. When a migraine is coming on, I feel inexplicably lazy and weak, and during the migraine (1 to 3 days) I can’t exercise. I’m also a skier who gets migraines at altitude, and can’t relax with a beer afterwards because alcohol is a trigger. Grrr.

  • Sarah Hackley moderator author
    2 years ago

    I understand completely! I’ve always been active, and I hate when a bad migraine cycle means I have to cut back. It helps if I remember to double up on hydration, though. Thanks for sharing the tip!

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