Exercise and Migraines: My Personal Discovery Journey

Exercise and Migraines: My Personal Discovery Journey


As someone who has personally experienced the debilitating effects of migraine attacks, I understand the impact they can have on your daily life. The pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and overall discomfort can make even the simplest tasks challenging. Desperate to find relief, I embarked on a personal discovery journey that led me to the unexpected solution of exercise.

The Role of Exercise in Migraine Management

Contrary to what some might believe, exercise can actually play a significant role in managing migraine attacks. Research has shown that regular physical activity has numerous benefits for migraine sufferers:

  • Release of endorphins: Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, natural pain-relieving chemicals in the brain, which can help alleviate migraine pain.
  • Improvement in sleep patterns: Quality sleep is essential for migraine management, and regular exercise can help improve sleep quality and reduce the frequency of migraine attacks triggered by disrupted sleep.
  • Reduction of stress: Stress is a common trigger for migraine attacks, and exercise is a proven stress-reducer. Engaging in physical activity can help lower stress levels and potentially prevent migraine attacks.
  • Enhancement of overall well-being: Exercise provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts mood by increasing the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of happiness and well-being. This overall improvement in well-being can positively impact migraine management.

These findings prompted me to explore how exercise could benefit my own migraine management.

Starting Small: My First Steps

Before diving into a rigorous exercise routine, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider. They can help you identify exercise options that are suitable for your specific condition and any potential limitations. In my case, my healthcare provider guided me through the process:

  • Discussing exercise options and limitations: My healthcare provider and I had an open conversation about the types of exercises that would be beneficial for my migraine attacks and any potential limitations to consider.
  • Understanding potential triggers: It’s important to be aware of any triggers that can worsen migraine attacks during exercise. For example, bright lights, extreme temperatures, or intense physical exertion can potentially trigger a migraine attack.

With my healthcare provider’s guidance, I started incorporating low-impact activities into my routine:

  • Walking and gentle stretching: Brisk walking and gentle stretching exercises helped improve blood circulation and relieve muscle tension, both of which can contribute to migraine relief.
  • Yoga and meditation for stress reduction: Incorporating yoga poses and mindfulness meditation techniques into my routine proved to be effective in reducing stress levels, a known trigger for migraine attacks.

Tracking Migraines and Exercise

A crucial part of my personal discovery journey was keeping a headache diary to track my migraine attacks and exercise sessions. This helped me identify patterns and triggers:

  • Recording migraine frequency and intensity: Maintaining a detailed record of the dates, duration, and intensity of my migraine attacks allowed me to identify any trends or patterns.
  • Noting exercise sessions and changes in symptoms: In my headache diary, I made sure to log my exercise sessions and any changes in migraine symptoms that occurred after each session.

Analyzing the data from my headache diary helped me understand the relationship between exercise and migraine attacks:

  • Identifying activities that exacerbate or alleviate symptoms: I noticed that certain high-intensity exercises, such as running or HIIT workouts, triggered migraine attacks for me. On the other hand, activities like swimming or cycling had a positive impact on reducing the frequency and severity of my migraine attacks.

Gradually Increasing Exercise

As I became more comfortable with my exercise routine, I gradually increased the duration and intensity of my workouts:

  • Slowly increasing duration and intensity: Instead of pushing myself too hard too soon, I took a gradual approach to avoid triggering migraine attacks. For example, I increased my walking time by a few minutes each week.
  • Experimenting with different exercise types: I found it beneficial to incorporate a variety of exercises into my routine, such as aerobic exercises like swimming and cycling, as well as strength training and flexibility exercises.

It’s important to pay attention to warning signs during exercise:

  • Recognizing signs of an impending migraine: Listening to my body and being aware of early signs of a migraine, such as increased sensitivity to light or aura, allowed me to adjust my exercise routine accordingly.
  • Adjusting exercise routine accordingly: If I noticed any warning signs, I would reduce the intensity or take a break from exercise to prevent triggering a full-blown migraine attack.

Finding the Right Balance

Throughout my journey, I learned the importance of listening to my body and finding the right balance between exercise and migraine management:

  • Adjusting exercise intensity during migraine episodes: When experiencing a migraine attack, I would reduce the intensity of my exercise or opt for more gentle activities like yoga or meditation.
  • Taking breaks when needed: Rest days are just as important as exercise days. I would take breaks when I felt my body needed extra rest, especially during periods of increased migraine activity.

Incorporating relaxation techniques also proved to be beneficial:

  • Deep breathing exercises during and after workouts: Implementing deep breathing exercises during and after workouts helped reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.
  • Practicing mindfulness to reduce stress: I integrated mindfulness techniques into my exercise routine, focusing on the present moment and letting go of any stress or tension.

Exercise as a Preventive Measure

Consistency is key when it comes to exercise and migraine attacks. By maintaining a regular exercise routine, I experienced long-term benefits:

  • Reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks: Over time, regular exercise helped decrease the frequency and intensity of my migraine attacks.
  • Improving overall health and well-being: Exercise has a positive impact on overall health, including cardiovascular health and mental well-being. Improved health can contribute to better migraine management.

It’s important to discuss preventive medications with your healthcare provider:

  • Understanding potential interactions with exercise: Some preventive medications may have side effects that can impact your exercise routine. It’s important to discuss these potential interactions with your healthcare provider.
  • Monitoring effectiveness and adjusting dosage: Regular communication with your healthcare provider is crucial to monitor the effectiveness of preventive medications and make any necessary adjustments.


Through my personal discovery journey, I found exercise to be a valuable tool in managing my migraine attacks. The combination of aerobic exercises, strength training, and relaxation techniques has helped me reduce the frequency and severity of my migraine attacks. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s essential to work closely with your healthcare provider to find an exercise routine that is tailored to your individual needs and capabilities. I encourage others to explore exercise as a part of their own migraine management journey, as it may provide unexpected relief and improve overall well-being.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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