Exercise May Help Prevent Migraines
Regular aerobic exercise worked just as well as relaxation
therapy or the antiepileptic drug topiramate in preventing
headaches, according to a Swedish study.
Previous studies had found that relaxation therapy and
topiramate are effective for migraine prevention, the investigators
note. Emma Varkey and colleagues from the Institute of
Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg
conducted the study. Varkey’s team randomly assigned 91
women to 1 of 3 regimens for 3 months: aerobic exercise on
a stationary bicycle (40 minutes 3 times per week), relaxation
therapy, or daily topiramate. The 91 women were between the
ages of 18 and 65. All had neurologist-diagnosed migraine.
All 3 treatments reduced the frequency of some women’s
migraine attacks. The primary efficacy variable showed a mean
reduction of 0.93 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.31–1.54)
attacks in the exercise group, 0.83 (95% CI 0.22–1.45) attacks
in the relaxation group, and 0.97 (95% CI 0.36–1.58) attacks
in the topiramate group. No significant difference was observed
between the groups (p=0.95).
Varkey said she was surprised by the small between-group
differences. The only parameter in which topiramate was better
than exercise or relaxation was the reduction of pain intensity.
On the other hand, Varkey noted, the non-pharmacological
options were free from adverse events. In addition, the
exercise group increased oxygen intake. The researchers added,
“From a wider health-based perspective, it should be stressed
that patients with migraine are less physically active than the
general population, and that exercise has positive effects in
terms of general well-being and the prevention of disease.”
Varkey E, Cider A, Carlsson J, Linde M. Exercise as migraine prophylaxis: a randomized study using relaxation and topiramate as controls. Cephalagia.31(14):1428-1438.