Migraineurs Support Community
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327385 tn?1378364331

exercise makes migraine worse.

i have had this problem since my migraines started. before i had migraines i exercised 1hr every day . i have gained weight after my crainotomy and it is so painfull to exercise. i have tryed to do sit ups and i get a 10+ migraine that lasts days. i have tryed walking on my treadmill and get dizzy and sick . i have tryed so many times to exercise and my headache is so bad it scares me to try again. i want to lose my belly and scared of the migraine that comes with it.  does anyone else have this problem ? how do you lose your belly fat with exercise induced migraines? i have walked and its to cold to walk now. any suggestions would be apprecitated!!! my migraines get so painfull i do anything to avoid them and my bulg is stressing me out .
9 Responses
768044 tn?1294227036
Oh! Me too! About the only thing I can do seems to be walking... and yeah, when it gets cold out, that starts to get difficult. Anything that puts my neck at an odd angle... or anything that bounces my head around... always gives me a headache!! And, usually any exercise that causes too much exertion will result in a headache too. Basically it means no exercise. And, my doctor is always saying "exercise! you need to exercise, that will help your headaches!" and I say "but exercise gives me headaches!" It is really frustrating.

The thing I found that helped was physiotherapy... BUT, it did induce headaches, which was frustrating. But, after a while, it stopped inducing headaches and over-all my over-all pain level was reduced. Also, I let the physio know exactly when my headaches were induced and how badly, and she would alter the exercises to try to avoid a headache being triggered. The exercises probably would have looked laughable to an "average" person "working out" I bet... but, for me, they were difficult and would tired me out quickly. I work with those elastic bands that they always get people to work with during physio, and I eventually even went up a resistance level. I also would ride a stationary RECLINING bike for 5 minutes on no resistance... which seems like not much, but, the physio lady said it was better then nothing, and eventually I got up to something like 20 minutes or something. it is important to be on an reclining bike because the kind where you lean over can trigger a headache more apparently, the reclining kinds are better for headaches because your neck is supported and you won't get dizzy. I just did as much as possible without triggering a headache every day and I would stop as soon as I got tired or as soon as anything started to hurt or as soon as I felt like I was triggering something... and even if that only meant a few minutes, that was better than nothing the physio lady said. And, eventually I could do a lot of exercise without triggering anything by the middle of the summer, it was actually pretty amazing when I felt I had strength again and could do physical activity without triggering pain.

Then I stopped doing it and now I'm back in the same position as I was before. I know I'm going to have to start from scratch again... which is depressing because it means triggering headaches if I do anything for even 5 minutes and working up soooo slowing, like months slowly, until I can actually work out. But, like the physio lady said, it's better to do 1 minute a day instead of nothing, because then you can eventually do more.

So... if you have health insurance that covers physio... I would totally suggest physio therapy. Tell them that you have migraines and that exercise triggers your migraines. Tell them exactly where it starts to hurt, etc. when you exercise and where the pain spreads to. If the person looks at you confused or like they aren't really sure how they can help migraines, then call around until you find a physio who knows how to help people who are trying to get into shape but get exercise induced migraines... not every physio will know but there will be lots that do. And if you get a migraine after you first appointment, go back to your next one anyway and let them know that so they can adjust the program. If your insurance doesn't cover it, then I would just suggest trying the advice of my physio, do literally as much work as you can without triggering a migraine, even if that is just 1 minute, and every day. Eventually you'll work your way up to half an hour, even if it takes half a year to get that far... but eventually you'll be doing half an hour without any pain at all, as long as you do at least something everyday even if it's just 1 minute.

Oh, and maybe don't do sit-ups, those sound really bad for migraines because of the stress it puts on your neck. The treadmill sounds like it could be okay but maybe you are just doing too much, I would try the treadmill again but do half as much as before. And maybe if there is gym or community centre close by, try a reclining bicycle but only for 5 minutes on no resistance and if you feel any bad pain or dizzy feeling then stop... although it is less likely to get dizzy on a reclining bicycle because you are already reclining and it is harder to get dizzy when you are reclining (still possible but more difficult).  

I need to start exercising again too. But I fear the pain too. I keep saying I am going to call my physio to make an appointment but then I never do. I will post here when I do actually make the phone call... maybe now that I have said that, I will actually make the phone call and do it?
768044 tn?1294227036

There was apparently a study done about a safe exercise program for migraine sufferers that was published in the journal Headache (a peer reviewed scientific journal). I can access the journal through my college library account so I am going to try to search for the article (finding specific articles if you don't know the name of the article or the author is tricky even if you know the journal it was published in though). If I can find the specific article, I will quote the relevant parts and summarize the findings for you! But.. basically, I think the exercise program consisted of stationary bicycling... and they found that it did not trigger migraines and in fact even reduced migraines in some of the participants and they guessed that maybe it had something to do with increased oxygen levels or something. But, I don't know for how long the people did it for or how many times a week... so I am going to try to find the article. I will let you know when/if I can find the article! :)
764912 tn?1322715443
The bicycle makes sense to me as a do bicycle on the road and on a recumbant stationary one---where your feet are out in front of you not underneath, and I don't get the migraines with that, as with other things.  Of course falling limits what exercise I can do. LOL  I don't know why. eheha:)

I sure hope you all find something to help, because I think it reduces stress.  Keep us posted, please.
768044 tn?1294227036
I found the article on google! Here is a link:

So, yeah, it was indoor cycling. Personally, I think the reclining cycling is better even though the article didn't mention that.

The article says that "Insufficient warm-up is reported to be a migraine trigger, and migraine attacks are suggested to be preventable by proper warm-up before exercise. In the program we therefore used a 15-minute warm-up period."

The program was "indoor cycling" for "a 15-minute warm-up period followed by a 20-minute exercise period and a 5-minute cool-down period" "3 times a week." The study thought that it was important for individuals with migraines to be "supervised by a physiotherapist" during exercise.

So... maybe a physiotherapist and a reclining indoor bicycle really are a solution to some migraineurs exercise problems? Maybe that is why my physiotherapist made me ride a bicycle as part of my program. Obviously it isn't going to work for everyone... but maybe worth a shot?

I don't know though... still scary to go back to physio because I know I'll get a few exercise induced headaches at first. Just have to really pace myself I guess to avoid it? Not looking forward to the possibility of an exercise induced headache though!!!
768044 tn?1294227036
Hi Tracy!

Yeah! So that's good that the bicycle thing works for you. I wonder how many other people it works for too. That would be really cool if it turned out that it worked for lots of people on here.

And.. oh a recumbent bicycle!! Is that what it's called!!! I kept calling it a reclining bicycle because I didn't know what it was called, Oh I'm silly, LOL.
Avatar universal
That's a great article, thank you. My husband noted from me reading the article to him that the patients must not have been 'in cycle' (no pun intended) when they began the program since anything he does during a period of constant daily migraine only enhances the pain.

He looks forward to getting to the point that he can try the program, since we already have a recumbant bike that I use for arthritis.

681148 tn?1437665191
I know something else that sit ups and crunches aren't good for--GERD sufferers.  It pushes on the stomach and forces the acid upwards, in the direction that is causing problems for people with GERD in the first place.  And, if I have problems with my GERD, I have more problems with my migraines.

I haven't tried a stationary bicycle yet.  I don't have access to one.  And, I never learned to ride an ordinary bicycle that actually moves.

Oh, and not being "in cycle" to begin with definitely means that if I had such access it would have to wait, because I have a killer migraine cycle right now.
764912 tn?1322715443
Yes, I like to recline if I exercise, LOL hehehea.  I am not sure why it works for me but it does.  I don't loose weight doing it and that irks me.  The Dr doesn't want me walking any where but the yard since I fall.  Bummer I love to walk.  Very nice article! Thanks

FurballsMom is your migraine better yet?
681148 tn?1437665191
It's better, but it's still hanging on.  A couple of mornings ago I woke up to an alarm clock migraine.  I think the one I have right now might be combined with a tension headache since it's on top of the head and right in the area where I get the burning sensation on my scalp that my PCP thinks is more concentrated idiopathic peripheral neuropathy.  I'm open to any suggestions to what else this sensation could be, especially since I feel like it's related to the tension headaches and migraines.  I have an appointment with the neurologist in a couple of weeks.
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