Can Working Out Help Relieve Migraines?

If you suffer from migraines, you might be wondering if working out can help relieve the pain. While there is no cure for migraines, exercise can actually help lessen the frequency and intensity of migraines.


Are you one of the thousands of people who experience frequent migraine headaches? If so, then working out might be the answer to your suffering. While exercise is not a magical cure, research suggests that getting moderate amounts of physical activity can help reduce both the frequency and intensity of migraines. In this article, we’ll discuss ways in which regular exercise can alleviate migraine pain, as well as examine potential precautions and considerations.

Causes of Migraines

Migraines are common, yet painful and sometimes debilitating headaches that can last for days. They can be caused by various triggers including stress, hormones, weather changes, certain foods, and certain medications. There are also many risk factors that can increase your chances of developing migraine headaches, such as genetics, lifestyle, and environment. Let’s take a closer look at some of the causes of migraines.


Genetics plays an important role in the development of migraines and may explain why some people are more prone to them than others are. It is thought that genetic predispositions can lead to a person’s sensitivity to certain migraine triggers and make them more likely to experience burning sensations or nausea associated with the headache. As such, it is possible that if you have a family history of migraines, you could be at greater risk of developing them yourself. Nevertheless, intervention strategies such as physical activity can help in managing individual symptoms even for those who are genetically predisposed toward the condition. Exercise may reduce the intensity or even prevent a migraine from occurring altogether by altering certain chemical pathways in the brain or decreasing stress levels, both of which can have an effect on migraine development.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors are thought to be major contributors to migraine headaches, but can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint. These factors can include changes in weather or altitude, loud noises, and strong odors. Working out may also temporarily worsen the intensity and frequency of migraines. Stress is a major trigger factor and emotional stress such as grief or loneliness can elicit a migraine headache.

Chemicals like alcohol, fermented foods, artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) and certain food additives (like MSG) may also trigger migraine headaches. As a result, people with migraines are encouraged to maintain a “headache diary” listing the food they consume and any triggers that may have provoked their symptoms. This can help identify any correlations between diet choices and activity levels with the onset of migraines.


Stress is a common cause of migraines, often triggered by an underlying psychological condition like depression or anxiety. A number of environmental factors can also increase the chances of migraine episodes, including weather changes, bright lights and loud noises. In addition, other types of physical stressors such as poor posture and muscle tension can also be a risk factor.

Less typical triggers include sudden changes in diet, skipping meals or specific substances such as caffeine or alcohol. Various medications may also contribute to the onset of migraines. These include birth control pills and other hormonal medications as well as drugs used to treat colds and allergies.

While exercise can be an effective way to manage stress levels, it can potentially worsen some people’s headaches if the intensity is too high for their individual tolerance level. Moderate forms of exercise like walking, swimming or light cycling may be beneficial for some migraine sufferers — however it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any physical activity program if you are prone to episodes.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise can be great for physical and mental health and can help to reduce the occurrence of migraine headaches. Regular exercise can also reduce stress and improve your overall mood, as well as support better cardiovascular health. Furthermore, it can help you build endurance and strength, and you’ll burn calories and lose weight. Let’s take a look at the various benefits of exercise and how they can help relieve migraine headaches.

Improved Blood Flow

It is well established that regular exercise is essential for maintaining physical and mental health. Aside from supporting overall wellbeing, one specific benefit of exercise is improved blood flow. Research has shown that exercising increases blood circulation throughout the body, which in turn can help to minimize or even prevent migraines. Increasing blood flow allows more oxygen to pass through the veins and arteries in the head, alleviating tension and reducing pain associated with migraine headaches. Exercise also helps to reduce stress-related hormones such as cortisol, which can have a significant impact on migraines. Additionally, some studies have indicated that those who engage in regular exercise experience fewer migraine attacks and less frequent pain symptoms. All of these factors demonstrate how improved blood flow from working out can indeed help to relieve migraines.

Reduced Stress

Regular exercise can be beneficial for those suffering from migraine headaches, as exercise can help reduce stress. Stress is a major trigger for headaches and the physical and emotional effects of exercise; such as deep breathing, endorphin release, improved sleep quality, and relaxation of tight muscles can be particularly effective in reducing headache intensity. Regular aerobic exercise at a moderate pace causes your body to produce natural mood-enhancing endorphins that help create an improved sense of well-being. In addition, exercising allows you to clear your mind and focus on the feeling of well-being rather than worrying about life problems that may lead to increased stress levels. Therefore, engaging in moderate aerobic exercises on a regular basis can help maintain stress levels which may ultimately reduce the intensity or frequency of migraine headaches.

Improved Sleep

Physical activity can help improve sleep quality in those who experience migraines. Exercise increases production of a natural chemical in the brain called adenosine, which is thought to play a role in the onset of migraines. Adenosine helps the body become more relaxed, making it easier to drift off into deep sleep. Additionally, when done at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes several times per week, exercise can help reduce levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, which can also cause or trigger migraines.

Regular exercise that involves aerobic activity such as walking, jogging and swimming has been linked with improved sleep quality and duration. Additionally, stretches to relax muscle tension and relaxation techniques like yoga and mediation can encourage good sleep hygiene and overall health benefits. When done on a regular basis these activities often result in improved mood states during wakeful hours as well as reduced fatigue during physical activity.

Types of Exercise to Relieve Migraines

Exercising is known to be beneficial for many health problems, including migraines. It can help increase endorphins which can help reduce the pain and frequency of migraine attacks. There are a few specific types of exercise that have been proven to be especially effective in helping to relieve migraines. Let’s explore what types of exercise can be beneficial for people who suffer from migraines.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is an important type of exercise when it comes to managing migraines. Not only can regular aerobic exercise reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines, but it can also increase the effectiveness of other migraine treatments by improving overall health.

Aerobic exercises focus on rhythmic, repetitive movements that can improve the body’s cardiovascular system as well as its emotional wellbeing. Common aerobic exercises for migraine relief include walking, running, cycling, swimming or any other low-impact activity that you enjoy doing. The idea is to find a form of activity that is both pleasurable and beneficial for your overall health.

Regular aerobic exercise helps to reduce stress levels and balance hormones in the body, which can help to prevent migraines before they start. In addition to regular aerobic exercise, participants may want to incorporate strength training into their weekly routine as well for improved muscle tone and posture — two more factors known to contribute positively to migraine relief. Working out with a friend or personal trainer may also be useful in increasing motivation and keeping track of progress over time.

Strength Training

Strength training is any exercise designed to build muscle strength and endurance. It can involve lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing body-weight exercises such as push-ups. Strength training helps improve muscle strength, posture and balance. It may help prevent acute and chronic headaches, including migraines, by reducing tension in the muscles of the head and neck. For best results, aim for 2-3 days per week of moderate-intensity workouts that include circuit training or weight lifting. Relying on machines for strength training can be beneficial for beginners but make sure to incorporate compound exercises that target multiple major muscle groups at once; this will make the workouts more efficient in terms of not only time but also results. Exercises such as squat jumps with a weight will target both the legs and core, while dumbbell bench presses work both arms and chest which greatly reduce physical tension throughout your body’s core units – making this type of exercise a great consideration if you want to ease migraines.


Yoga has been practiced as a form of mind-body attenuation and relaxation for centuries. Studies suggest that incorporating slow and gentle yoga postures may be beneficial in relieving migraine pain. According to research, hatha yoga, a type of yoga practice that emphasizes physical exercises called poses, helped to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines in about one-third of the people studied after 12 weeks.

The practice of yoga teaches levels of relaxation, positive breathing techniques and regulating adrenaline levels in order to help reduce stress, migraines and tension headaches. Studies have revealed that migraine sufferers who do at least two months of regular yoga can experience improvement from their symptoms over time.

Incorporating poses such as downward facing dog, reclined pigeon, cat-cow stretch and fish pose into your regular routine can help improve your cardiovascular system’s reaction to stress-causing activities. As movement is naturally part of the body’s healing process, practicing different types of yoga can still be beneficial for all those dealing with chronic head pain by helping to improve overall posture, balance flexibility while providing an invaluable cognitive distraction from pain symptoms.


Overall, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done on the effects of exercise on migraines and other forms of headache. However, it appears that exercise can be beneficial and can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines in some people. If you are considering starting an exercise regime to help alleviate your migraines, it is important to talk to your doctor first to discuss your specific needs and situation. Depending on their advice and assessment, they may suggest incorporating a more routine form of exercise into your life such as walking or swimming for 30 minutes three times a week. Additionally, speak with a physical therapist about any exercises you should avoid that could worsen the pain for you. Doing so will allow you to do more activities comfortably. As always, listen to your body when feeling tired or in pain from too much activity — rest when needed!

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