You know that throbbing pain you feel when you have a headache? Now, imagine that pain being multiplied and lasting for days to the point where you can’t get out of bed. That’s the sad reality for many people with migraines. But a new study shows yoga for migraines offers a light at the end of the tunnel.
As one of the most common headache disorders, migraines affect a billion people worldwide.
According to a new study published in the journal Neurology, adding a yoga practice to your treatment may help lower the intensity and frequency of your migraines, and how many pills you need to take to reduce the pain.
How Yoga for Migraines Can Help Ease Symptoms
The most common cause of migraines is stress. Since yoga triggers a relaxation response in the body, this exercise can naturally help bring the body out of a stressful state and minimize migraine symptoms.
While medications are the first line of defense to treat migraines, only 50 percent of migraine patients find them helpful, researchers explained. They specifically looked at the effectiveness of yoga paired with medications for people with migraines.
Dr. Gautam Sharma, coauthor of the study and a cardiology professor and head of the Center for Integrative Medicine and Research, said yoga is “improving the mood, decreasing depression. It’s acting like one of the anti-anxiety medicines, and all of these medicines are used for migraine.”
How the Study Was Conducted
For the study, patients were given a headache log book to record information about the length of their migraines, level of pain, what activities triggered it, and the effects of medication.
Researchers split patients in two groups: the first group only took medication and the second group took medication paired with a yoga for migraines treatment. Under the instruction of a yoga therapist, participants did yoga for three days per week for 30 days.
During the next 60 days for five days per week, they followed the program at home. While the group who did yoga had more headaches at the beginning of treatment, their headache intensity and frequency improved the most. Their pill intake was also lower compared to the medication group.
In fact, more than 12 percent of patients in the yoga group were headache-free and decreased their pill intake by 47 percent by the end of the study!
The Science Behind Yoga and Stress
Yoga calms down the sympathetic nervous system, which controls how the body reacts to stress, Sharma said. In a stressful state, our bodies are on high alert: faster heart rate, more blood pumping, and heightened senses.
When we practice yoga, everything slows down internally. Hence, the relaxed and peaceful feeling.
Practicing yoga is specifically beneficial for migraines because it decreases tension in the area of pain. Whether it’s in the head, neck, or shoulders, yoga can loosen those tight muscles.
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Experience the Therapeutic Effects of Yoga for Migraines
When it comes to treatment, keep in mind there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. For optimal results, you may need to try practicing yoga in addition to taking medication. Speak with your healthcare provider for the best advice for you.
All included information is not intended to treat or diagnose. The views expressed are those of the author and should be attributed solely to the author. For medical questions, please consult your healthcare provider.