In a recent study, regular exercise, performed at least three times a week for 40 minutes, was as effective as medication, but without side effects
Migraine headaches are a source of pain, loss of work, and decreased quality of life for a significant number of people. Medication options include drugs that are taken at the onset of symptoms or drugs that are taken daily to prevent attacks from occurring or lessen the pain when they do. Non-medication options that have been shown to be helpful are behavioral therapies such as relaxation, biofeedback, and stress management. A recent study compared a regular exercise program to two preventative strategies: medication and relaxation.
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Ninety-one patients were enrolled in this study. All the participants had had migraines for at least a year, were between ages 18 and 65 years. All experienced headaches two-eight times per week. The study's subjects were divided into three groups. All three groups kept a journal of headache frequency and severity for one month before starting on their specific intervention.
One group received a standard drug for migraine, topiramate. One group received training and supervision in specific relaxation techniques, and a third received training and supervision in an exercise program.
The members of the relaxation group practiced breathing, stress management, and relaxation techniques for six sessions at the clinic and performed their routines at home with a CD. The topiramate group had their medication adjusted regularly to their maximally-tolerated dose.