Can You Exercise With Migraines?

If you suffer from migraines you may wonder if it's a good idea to exercise during an episode. We'll offer you some valuable information in order to guide you to the right decision. Only you will know how your body will react to physical effort.
Can You Exercise With Migraines?

Last update: 19 March, 2019

There are many opinions, myths, and debates regarding exercising with  migraines. In this article, we’ll clear up a few aspects about migraines and exercise. Keep reading to discover the most convenient way to exercise for people suffering from this condition.

Some people believe that exercising with migraines is recommended. They claim that exercise helps to reduce the discomfort caused by migraines.

However, others believe that it’s best to avoid all physical activity during a migraine episode. This contradiction leads us to the following question: can you, or can you not exercise with migraines? Read along to find out.

What should you know about exercising with migraines?

Migraines are defined as recurrent and intense headaches which are usually located on one side of the head and related to vascular alterations of the brain.

Migraines can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to sound or light. This can cause a malaise that, in many cases, prevents sufferers from undertaking their daily activities.

It’s important to take the following factors into account before determining whether it is wise to exercise or not when you have a migraine:

  • The intensity of the pain: sometimes the pain may be mild and have a short duration, however, it could also be intense and last for longer periods of time. Sometimes the use of medicine has to be employed to relieve the pain.
Woman with headache
  • Types of exercise: high impact exercises such as CrossFit, HIIT or running are very demanding on the body. Low impact exercises on the other hand, do not demand a lot of effort.
  • Special conditions: people suffering from health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or brain disease should take special precautions

Determining whether or not you can exercise with migraines depends on the factors mentioned above. Some of the factors may help alleviate the migraine while others may make it worse.

Reducing pain with exercise

Yes, you can exercise with migraines, physical activity may actually help you feel better. This is only true however, under the following conditions:

  • The exercises that are going to be performed are light.
  • You should feel fully capably of the exercise you are going to perform, despite the headache.
  • If you suffer from a disease that influences migraines, it is best to consult your doctor before deciding to exercise.
  • You migraine should be mild.

Exercise can help reduce the pain of migraines. This occurs because it increases blood flow and, therefore, improves the oxygenation of the brain. In addition, the release of endorphins may make you feel better. Gentle exercises such as yoga or Pilates may be beneficial to help eliminate your migraine.

Aggravating your migraine with exercise

On the other hand, exercising with migraines is not recommended in the following situations:

  • If you plan on carrying out demanding exercises which involve weights, speed and strength.
  • When the pain is intense and is accompanied by other discomforts.
  • Having another pathology that puts your health at risk.

If you relate to any of the aspects mentioned above, exercise could aggravate your migraine. Diseases such as hypertension may also be an influencing factor. Physical exertion could increase stress and make your condition even worse.

Tired after workout

Double-edged sword

While exercising may be beneficial when it comes to reducing the pain from migraines, this does not mean that you should exercise too often. Exercising with a migraine is a double-edged sword: it could provide benefits, but it could also cause harm.

Therefore, you should take as much care as possible. It’s okay to skip one day of training. Your number one priority should be your health. Keep in mind that migraines can be harmless but they could also be a symptom of another serious condition. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor.

Migraines and exercise may not always go well together. When it comes to making the decision, remember that your health should come first. Therefore, think well before performing exercise when you have a migraine.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.