Migraines and excercise !

Hi , can any of you do light to moderate excercise without causing a migraine ? It seems every time I do it's starts a migraine . I want to excercise for many reasons but think after " is it every worth it "  when I'm in pain and can't do day to day activities . 

Why does this happen ? I eat before and drink during  & after .  Interested to hear others thoughts and views . Thanks 

40 Replies

  • I have a similar problem without good explanation from medics. I go all you say eat well , keep hydrated etc . I have to say that exercise is now for me not always a trigger but it can be depending upon the amount of exertion . I surprised myself being able to ski . Short bursts frequent rests , but a a hill walk has left me crippled . I think a big factor is if I even have a slight headache it will become a huge migraine with exertion . If I am generally well I can toe rate more. I used to run 10 k , swim 40 lengths , cycle half the day , but now have to be cautious ... I started couch to 5 k in the hope of I build it up slowly my body Tony react . Many things written relate to unaccustomed exercise . I think this could be to a degree true . I did one hour of Zumba and was suffering for 24 hours . My bp is well controlled due to long term candesartan as a prophylactic but I am determined to move more which I definitely am . At one point couldn't even change bed sheets myself as triggered huge migraine. Perhaps less is more .and little and often ? Frustrating though . Sorry no answers there .. 

  • Hi , a very interesting read and we have similar issues . I think your right saying less is more . I did salsa again today and have another migraine . I love the class so much , I don't want to give it up , maybe I should try just 30 mins and leave early . It's so frustrating ! 

  • Hi Glamour puss,

    I share your frustrations I too get exercise induced migraine with no obvious explanations. I have done for the last 20 years and for a long time just got on with it and managed to do 1/2 marathons and a triathlons with the support of lots of tablets (tried many preventative meds) and sumitriptan. However as I have got older (now 44) I am able to do less I also get rebound headaches lasting 2 days from the sumitriptan, again I keep well hydrated and eat before & after. The headache kicks in after 4-6 hrs. I am now taking magnesium supplements and Gabapentin 200mgs three times daily. I have managed to have a gentle swim 20 ish lengths on 2 occasions but failed miserably when I went for a short  steady run last week. Fortunately I can still do my dog agility running short bursts for up to 1 minute with do headache which maintains my sanity...If this medication doesn't help I am considering visiting the National Migraine centre in London for assessment. The worst thing is I have been getting daily headaches for the last 6 weeks (pre gabapentin) probably due to stress which the exercise helps me with...its a vicious circle.

  • Do go to The National Migraine Centre.  I did and they are brilliant and so understanding. They sorted my migraine out and changed my life!  Good luck!

  • Thanks penny I will certainly give them a go. Did you manage to get in quickly? How long were you there for ?

  • I was getting medication headaches caused by taking medication everyday over a period of bad migraines.  They managed to offer me a cancellation appointment the following week so worth asking them to call you if there is a cancellation if you can get there at short notice. 

  • penny how did they sort your overuse headaches for you? I have the same issue. My neurologist has me still taking some triptans but has given me botox. I'd love to hear your story.

  • When l was diagnosed with Medication overuse headache at the NMC I was prescribed Naproxen 250mg 3x daily for 2 weeks then 2x daily for 2 weeks and finally 1x daily for 2 weeks. All symptomatic treatment stopped over this period. Not easy. Massage helped! At same time took Amitriptyline 10 mg 3 hours before bed and increased very slowly to 50 mg daily. Stayed on this for 2 years during time migraines decreased. Now off Amitriptyline and no migraines for 7 months!!! Not sure why but after 35 years or so of migraines I 'm over the moon and long may it last! So don't give up!

  • Wow that's amazing you have managed a hAlf marathon . It's so very frustrating when we can't do what we want . I tried my salsa class today and it triggered another migraine so now I'm annoyed with myself for going  ! I'm reluctant to take another Triptan due to m over use .  Are you finding gabapentin helpful ? 

  • I used to suffer with excercise induced migraine, but I found what worked for me was going to the gym , its a warm inviroment in there, I use a running machine the surface is flat, constant speed no hills etc I use  a small incline,

    I started out doing 2 minutes for the first week and built up to running 25 minutes non stop now at almost max heartrate for my age, I done the same with lifting weights, this was almost guaranteed to start a "head" but the key for me was to start small and built up, I use a polar sports watch with chest band to monitor my heartrate etc

    its taken me 4 months to get to this level, believe me Im no weightlifter or gym bunny but its part of my exercise routine now three times a week, exercise one day and take the next one of, this gives my body time to recover, I exercise in the morning and eat breakfast after, I had aches and pains to begin with and a few fuzzy heads but recovered and pushed on the benefits are really paying off now, Im almost a normal human !

    start small and build up it takes time, hope this works for you....good luck

    ps, I might add I take no vitamins supplement or other miricle cures , just drink plain old tap water when I've finnished exercising

  • Thanks for your positive story . I hope it continues for you . 

  • Still going strong... :-) cant quite believe it

  • I just lost my reply to you how frustrating ! .. That's great news you must be feeling good . It's good to hear something that has worked for someone . 

    I was better on Monday after doing a different class . I also ate a little more before going . 

    Do you think it's worth buying a polar device ?? I don't know much about them 

  • That's great i am pleased you have been able to get back to exercise. The warm environment seems to not help me I am better in the cold was OK when I went open water swimming last year !!

  • I know if I over exert myself it's a major trigger but I am gradually building up to doing a little more each day and so far so good

  • Why in heavens name is their only a migrain clinic in London? Seems totally bizarre with the amount of people suffering all over the country. I would love to go but impossible to travel all that way.

  • Babs1234----Been there done that years ago...didnt make any difference at all...saw  what looked like a doctor aged 15 , streight out of medical school !

  • This has been a big problem for me too! Both caused directly from the exercise as well as the next day from muscle pain.

    But I found something that normally helps: electrolyte sports mix. It's a liquid of which you put a few drops into your water and it really helps prevent dehydration. I've always drunk lots of water but this seems to do the trick!

    Another thing I do is to take concentrated magnesium with Vitamin B2 und Q10, that helps relax my muscles.

    And this one is probably not worth mentioning but taking a hot shower after really helps to relax the muscles, preventing a migraine induced through muscle pain the next day.

  • I have fibromyalgia so my muscles are always tense regardless of how many massages I get . Thanks for your story , I will try the sports mix !  It may help so it's worth a try . 

  • I've not done proper exercise in 20 years, mainly because I don't like it but it was made more miserable by the constant headaches afterwards. I just presumed I was failing to get my breathing right, and gave up. I've only been diagnosed with migraines in the last 8 years and now, with this post, I can see the connection. Hopefully, it's not too late to make a change, as I really need to. I'm going to put it to my doctor, I may even skip there! Thanks

  • Never to late to try anything !  But I'm beginning to think is it really worth me going to these classes as I pay the price afterwards !  

  • I often find the opposite is the case that when I feel a migraine coming on exercise really  helps (though not always) and only provided I do so early enough. Has to be sufficient exertion - for me that means cycling or going on the exercise bike -  15-20 minutes at good pace and I'm greatly improved. It 's not a cure but it's part of the mix of dealing with the situation. If I can't (say I'm at work) then I'm buggered and have to resort to triptans to help with the pain.

  • My experiences are similar - gentle jogging really helped reduce the frequency and severity of my migraines for a number of years - and sometimes going for a jog when I feel a migraine threatening stops it developing and even a gentle run when the headache starts can help to ease it and stop me going on to develop the nausea.

    I also have problems with B12 absorption and this severely reduced the effectiveness of the jogging for a while - though I find that supplementing some B6 can help with that.

    My migraines are predominantly hormonal in nature but are responses to both changes in hormones during the month - and going through the menopause means it can be a bit of a roller coaster at times.

    I find that it has to be running for me - other exercise doesn't do anything - don't know if there is a clue in that.

  • Hi , do you have specialist running shoes ?  It's good that it helps . 

    The thought of trying to excercise  whilst having a migraine is unbearable but we are all different . Thanks for your story 

  • currently using some Nike air-max trainers.

    Indeed we are all different and I hope you find some reliefbefore too long

  • Hi , I'm amazed you can do this , but it just shows how different we all are . For me it seems like the slightest headache will develop into a migraine if I excercise .  

  • Hi, I have exactly the same problem with exercise. When my migraines started 3 years ago it was nearly always exercise that set them off. I have become so frustrated with this issue that I have barely done more than walk for the last couple of years. Every time I push it just a bit I know I'll get one. More recently, I have become determined to try something and have started doing a 7 min workout in the morning. It is a circuits type thing using an app that I found and you do 30 secs of each exercise with 10 Sec rest in between. Doesn't sound like much but is supposed to have health benefits. So far doesn't seem to be causing migraine and hoping it may raise my fitness levels enough to start gentle running such as 0-5k. Fingers crossed!

    Re gabapentin, I found that it reduced the frequency of my migraines v slightly but the intensity was possibly worse! Am on venlafaxine now but reducing and planning to try candesartan. Anyone on a preventative that they feel has especially helped with exercise induced migraines?

  • Hi  I am the same   it seems that anything that raises my blood pressure can trigger a migraine  and if I have one looming in the back ground I can't even think about going to the gym as it will definitely send it into full blown excruciating pain

  • Yes agree with glamour puss and ivylilly that if there's the slightest headache I should avoid exercise . However with paying attention to the rest of my lifestyle this has improved. It used to be that a very slight headache and then packing a suitcase and walking around a shop would trigger a full blown migraine but now I could manage these more sedentary activities just not a brisk walk or run. I'm ever hopeful things will improve and perhaps for me it's a temporal relationship with hormones too. I also use a vagal nerve stimulator ( I have to buy this ) which can help for the beginning of migraines . Like you I WANT to exercise. I used to be quite fit and would like to live my life to the full but that seems an impossibility sometimes with migraine. No alcohol , no caffeine , regular sleep ,regular meals ,  can almost feel like "No fun " too . This was not the life I used to lead ! However 4 years on I'm getting a bit more used to it to keep well and out of the darkened room. .. 

  • Hi why no excercise ,  thanks for your reply . Isn't migraine so frustrating and debilitating ?  What is a vagal nerve stimulator ? Is this like a cafely ? 

  • The doctor at the migraine centre told me that exercise causes migraines due to the drop in blood sugar.

    He recommended I eat before exercising, something a bit substantial with sugar. I've juggled it about, I find a cereal bar good, some nuts and fruit like a banana good. Also a bit of toast if you can do. (Not all these things at once! ) that with drinking water both seem to stave off the headaches. 

  • Thank you for your advise , I'm going to try eating a little more for breakfast like you suggest as I only have a small bowl of cereal , especially as the class is now at 10.30 instead of 9.30 ! This Monday I have booked a different class I thinking slightly more gentle ( body balance ) . I'm anxious about going  incase the same thing happens but I don't want migraine to rule my life completely !  

  • Definitely try something like porridge, which will sustain you. I can't do gym classes, but that's more to do with back problems.. 

    Anyhow I have found anything with oats seems to really help. 

  • Sorry to hear that! Reading other answers and thinking perhaps the build up of exercise from a small amount at first may help?

    Also, wondering if it is  a psychological thing too? The thought of going may make you a bit of a nervous wreck and induce the headache?? Not sure how you rid that one though! Unless you try something like Headspace - the meditation app. Perhaps that may help. My consult recommended it.

    Also, I read in the Mirror newspaper about coconut water and Himalayan salt (from Holland & Barrett) mixed together as it has electrolytes. So I am wondering if you need something like that that has more than just water to it. Perhaps that maybe beneficial with exercise. Sorry I cannot recommend anything else not sure what to suggest sorry!

  • Hello , I am a little anxious before I go as I'm thinking shall I risk it or not !!  Cheers for tha app name , I'll take a look at it .

    I'm going to eat a little more for breakfast and get some salt and water like you suggest . Anything is worth a go . 

    Do you have the same problem  with excercise ? 

  • Re meditation apps, I find buddify and Stop, Breathe, Think, both better than headspace, but worth trying a few and see what you think. 

    Stop Breathe Think is great for learning about meditation and has a check in facility to monitor your stress and physical levels. 

  • I have to say Headspace didn't do anything for me, but I'm not sure I need the meditation anyway. Will look at others though thanks

  • No luckily I don't as that would really naff me off! However I have them at a time when I cannot relate to why I got them and that does my head in!

    You need to take two teaspoons of the salt with coconut water as the salt as the electrolytes and stuff in.

  • I have to say I have no anxiety any more about the possibility of getting a migraine . It's painful , disruptive , inconvenient for sure but feeling fully alive like you do after exercise if you get away with it is so much better. Remember I don't drink any more - where's the fun ? So the VAgal Nerve Stimulator acts on vagal nerve when a migraine is coming on and in a proportion of cases aborts the migraine. It's a gamma core product . I've never used cefaly . You have to be recommended through the neurologist . It's also not yet available on NHS . Sometimes you get a trial one for free. I did once download the graded exercise programme from the Internet - have to say not followed it . That may well work . I know I also could do more timing activities eg Pilates and yoga which I haven't incorporated into my routine . I have been walking 10 k a day while off work for a few days and that's been good . I also go dancing - ballroom - don't laugh and that seems fine even though I feel it in my legs afterwards . I'm interested about the post about vitamin and mineral deficiencies in another thread. A very easy way to change things without huge side effects . I'm not sure I have the courage to ask for B12 levels to be checked when I'm not anaemic though. I've heard of high dose Riboflavin to prevent migraine and have to admit I've stopped that along with my co Q 10 . So thanks for your post glamourpuss . You have provoked me into an action plan - again- of graded exercise and bit supplements of some sort. How nice would it be to meet friends for a run or a Zumba class ? 

  • I always get a migraine when I exercise that is brought on by over heating. It's like all the heat in my body runs to my head. I started tiring a wet scarf round my head when I'm weeding and digging. This seems to have helped me. Something to do with the artery in the neck swelling due to heat exertion. The cold scarf stops it swelling. I look a bit daft but anything to stop a migraine is good in my book.

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