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Exercise-Triggered Migraine Attacks

A half mile in 10 minutes on the treadmill, a gentle yoga class and dancing at a wedding. What do these three activities have in common? They’ve all triggered migraine attacks in the last month. It seems so unfair to get a migraine when I’m doing something good for my body — especially when that’s celebrating at a wedding! Alas, dwelling on what’s fair can only lead to a pity party. Time to figure out how to cope.

Following Diana Lee’s recommendations for coping with exercise as a migraine trigger, I plan to start with a slow 10 minutes a day on the treadmill, then increase my speed and duration gradually each week. Of course, this assumes an upward trajectory of migraine improvement. The reality of life with chronic migraine will probably intervene. (Is that pessimistic or merely realistic?)

A friend gets exercise-induced migraines whenever she starts running again after falling out of her routine. She just puts up with them for three weeks and then they stop. Although my general philosophy is to avoid migraines as much as possible, I might use her strategy for yoga. First, though, I’ll try backing off a bit in class tonight. I felt so good at my last class that maybe I just pushed too hard.

Once again I appear to be in need of balance. Why is that such a difficult lesson to learn?

7 Responses to Exercise-Triggered Migraine Attacks

  1. Anna says:

    Hi Kerrie,

    I’m a new reader of your blog and have been enjoying it very much. I’m also relatively new to the chronic migraine scene (I have had episodic migraines for more than a decade, which started creeping up the frequency scale to chronic over the last two years and I am working hard to reverse this progression).

    I’ve definitely found that exercise can trigger migraines as well. Although, as seems to often be the case, what exercise will trigger a migraine seems like a moving target. One day running was the worst idea ever. Another day running is fine. I’ve recently taken up Tai Chi and found that to be do-able even with a mild migraine, and I’ve had good luck with strength training not triggering migraines, but being very physically satisfying.

    Thanks for the blog. It helps build a sense of community around an experience that otherwise can feel very isolating.

    Cheers,
    Anna

  2. Virginia Smyres says:

    Don’t you remember the message on your old Garfield nightshirt???
    “Libras believe in balance in all things, especially dessert.”
    Love,
    Mom

  3. New to this blog.enjoy info, support and others! I am a 45 years long woman with chronic daily HA . Sometimes migraine and sometimes muscle tension. As years pass so has my will to carry on. Just began 5 then 6 now 7 minutes on my treadmill. At least I am moving and have some routine. Kerrie, thank you for The Daily Headache.
    Oh, I also have MS, Fibro, TMJ and cerebral aneurysms.
    For now ,
    Nicky

  4. Martha S. says:

    I have exercise-induced migraines, too. Though I haven’t been able to quite pinpoint the actual trigger. Working too hard or not enough water?

    I do a boot camp and Zumba on a regular basis. Last week I went to boot camp and then got a relatively mild headache. And then I had a piece of chocolate (which is a known trigger for me) after lunch which escalated the whole thing to a migraine that knocked me down for the rest of the day. I haven’t had one that bad in a long time!

    I’ll be reading the article you linked to.

    And might I say, your mom’s comment made me smile this morning!

  5. Misspelled “website” above in post not sure what u need

  6. Janice says:

    The only exercise I can do is a very gentle 20 minute walk, anything outside of that generates a migraine. This is very helpful to hear, I don’t remember exercise ever being mentioned as a trigger before. Anything that gets my heart pumping gets my head pumping!

  7. Lisa says:

    This is a trigger that is often overlooked, thanks for posting about it. I think it’s smart to keep trying yoga. You often post about how you enjoy it. It can be hard to back off in a room full of people who are doing incredibly cool poses, and also when it feels good on your body. But maybe it you think of it as a scientific experiment to see how far you can push, you won’t feel like you are “not trying hard enough” and then you will feel good about whatever you come up with. Hope you can continue to do yoga at a level of satisfaction!

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