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How To Prevent Exercise-Induced Migraine


When you live with migraine often you are encouraged to incorporate some movement into your everyday life because regular exercise can help lessen the severity and frequency of exercise. I exercise on a regular basis provided I’m not in extreme pain but it can be difficult to motivate yourself to exercise when you live with any kind of pain because you don’t want to make it worse or trigger a flare. Exercise can help manage migraine symptoms but it’s a lot easier said than done because we are told that exercise improves but not told that it can trigger it. I do not believe that you have to go hard with every workout or that it has to be an all-or-nothing approach because sometimes we can’t do as much exercise as we’d like. . Exercise is something every migraineur is told to do by our doctors but sometimes doctors aren’t very clear on what they mean when they tell you to exercise and sometimes people will roll their eyes and think your crazy because it doesn’t make sense that weightlifting would help improve migraine symptoms. If you are considering exercising with migraine sometimes it can be a little overwhelming and you may not know what type of exercise is right for you and how to avoid attacks. In this post I am going talk about what I do as a migraineur to avoid exercise-induced migraine attacks. .

Listen to your body– Many fitness enthusiasts have an all-or-nothing mindset towards fitness and will tell you that you must go beast mode with every workout or you won’t get results. I think it’s okay to do a really hard workout when your feeling when but I cannot stress enough how important it is to listen to your body and to be aware of your body’s cues because the last thing you want to do is ignore your body when it’s telling you to take a rest day. Some days your migraine symptoms will be flaring and you might have to do a lighter workout if any at all and that is okay because the worst thing you can do is to force yourself to do a workout when your body is telling you to take a rest day. I hate when I have to take an unplanned rest day but sometimes it’s necessary when I start to get a little bit of a headache because sometime exercise can turn what was a minor headache into a full-blown migraine attack that might have been avoidable by practicing self-care. Listen to your body because it’s not laziness to skip a few workouts but sometimes it’s necessary!

Start slow– Doctors often will recommend that people with migraine exercise but sometimes people are hesitant to start because it’s not always explained very well as to what that means and sometimes people can misunderstand and think that their doctors are telling them to go beast mode at the gym. If exercise can trigger attacks then why on earth would I ever want to it and should I be avoiding exercise? When doctors tell you to incorporate movement into your everyday routine it probably does not mean to go to the gym and start bench pressing eighty pounds and it most likely means to start slow and build on it as you get stronger because you will trigger migraine attacks if you do workouts your body isn’t trained for. Start slow and if all you can do is walk for five minutes that is okay because we all start somewhere! Do you think I started doing hour-long workouts on day one? No, and the very first workout I did was not more than ten minutes and it took years to get to build my strength and get to where I am now. If all you can do is a little yoga that is okay because something is better than nothing.

Make sure your adequately hydrated– If you exercise on a regular basis you may know how important it is to adequately hydrate yourself to maximize your results. . Hydration is important for anyone who goes hard at the gym but it’s even more important for people who live with migraine because it’s so easy to trigger attacks by not drinking enough water. When I exercise I typically will not drink regular water and often will have something with electrolytes because it hydrates faster than water alone. There are many supplements with electrolytes that you could use but I personally use Nuun (not sponsored) because there is only one gram of sugar which is important for me because it makes my stoma happy and hydrates me twice as fast as water alone. Many people will use liquid iv which is another electrolyte supplement but there is too much sugar and the one time I did have that my stoma went crazy for hours.  The amount of water you drink after your workout depends on the intensity of your workout because some people are not going to need to drink a ton of water but you should make sure you don’t dehydrate yourself because it can triggers headaches in anyone even people without headache disorders. Dehydration is the most common reason people get headaches after exercise and is the easiest thing to fix.

Stretch– When you exercise it’s important to stretch because flexibility is just as important as the workout but people often will not prioritize stretching as much as the actual workout. Stretching is just as important as your workout if not more so because when you don’t stretch your muscles get tight which can affect your performance and trigger pain. Stretching is necessary but I hate it so much and do notice when I haven’t been stretching because I am tight and often will have more pain. Don’t forget to stretch because even a five-minute stretch can relieve tension and prevent a migraine attack. Stretching is not just for people exercise a lot and most people can benefit from it because just think about how many hours you are sitting hunched over at your computer or looking at your phone. You may not always have time to do a full-length workouts and that is okay but you should make time for stretching because it help lessen pain and can avoid some migraine attacks.

Workout out at home– I do not work out at a gym because my physical disability would make it so I couldn’t use half of the equipment and the ones I can use at home. Gyms are great for some people but when you live with migraine it can be challenging because sometimes there are triggers that you cannot control. If gyms have been triggering for you in the past work out at home because you cannot control all the triggers at the gym but you can make an at-home gym that is free of your triggers. There are so many athome options that you don’t even need to go to a gym anymore and I don’t necessarily think that gym workouts are better than what you’d do at home because you can get a great workout in your bedroom. Some people like to go to a gym because it hold them accountable but when you live with migraine sometimes it’s difficult to find a gym that suits your needs because you can’t control all the odors at the gym which is why exercising at home is a great option.

Talk to your doctor– If you have done everything to prevent migraine attacks during exercise and still get them every with even the most low-intensity workout you can find it may be time to talk to your doctor. Some people with more severe types of migraine may not be able to do tons of exercise and that is okay but it can never hurt to talk to your doctor to see if there are options because sometimes there is an explanation as to why it’s happening or a medication that can help.

Movement is important for people with migraine or headache disorders but it’s hard because something that is supposed to be good also can be triggering. Migraineurs are always told to hit the gym with no excuses because movement helps lessen the frequency and severity of attacks but what people don’t tell you is that it can be triggering if you do the wrong type of exercise. I like to work out and most of the time I can push myself a little past my comfort zone but sometimes I have to take a rest day because my symptoms are flaring and I need to rest my body in order to recover quicker. It can be frustrating to have to take a rest day when you don’t want but sometimes it’s necessary and you shouldn’t think of it as laziness it’s self-care. For the longest time I thought that your mindset toward fitness should be an all or nothing but what I have learned by living with pain is that sometimes it’s not a good idea to workout and that is okay because your no going to have major setback by skipping a workout or two. How do you stay active while living with a headache or migraine disorder?

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