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  • Writer's pictureSam Kelokates

Strength Training for Migraine Management

Migraine is a neurological disorder, often characterized by an agonizing headache. While headache is the most commonly known feature of migraine it is not the only one. Migraine is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and/or vomiting, and sensitivity to noise (phonophobia) and light (photophobia).

While the exact cause of migraine is still not completely understood, we do know that triggers play a role in migraine attacks. If you want to read about the difference between cause of migraine and migraine triggers read this: Migraine Cause vs Migraine Trigger

There are many triggers that are uncontrollable, like weather changes. However, there are modifiable triggers, or triggers that we can attempt to have positive influence over. These would include our sleep habits, stress management skills, diet, and physical activity levels.

By addressing these factors people living with migraine can often reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. It’s been demonstrated in medical research that lifestyle modification or change can be an effective complementary approach to migraine management, and can often reduce the need for medication.

One of the more active approaches that can be taken to improve overall health and reduce the burden of migraine is through strength training. Also referred to as resistance training or exercise, strength training can provide numerous benefits in migraine management.

By incorporating strength training into a healthy lifestyle, individuals may be able to reduce their risk of migraine attacks and improve their overall quality of life.

Living with migraine is a daily struggle. Attacks can bring on debilitating symptoms and make it difficult to carry out everyday activities. Engaging in regular strength training has numerous benefits beyond just increasing muscle mass, overall fitness, and reducing stress.

Research has shown that resistance training can also help to improve sensory processing, improve the body’s pain modulation pathways, help to regular sleep patterns, stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis, and improve the neuroendocrine response.

In this blog we’ll dive into some of the more specific benefits of strength training for migraine, the variety of ways to perform strength training, and how to get started on your own program!

Benefits of Strength Training for Migraine

Variations of Strength Training

How to Get Started With Strength Training


Benefits of Strength Training for Migraine

Strength training has been shown to have several benefits that contribute to better overall health. This includes improved muscle function, stronger bones, improved cardiovascular health, and improved mental health.

But there are other benefits to strength training that many don’t talk about.

Many healthcare providers preach about the need to be physically active in the management of migraine. But many providers don’t take time to explain the “why” or “how” exercise improves migraine disease.

Exercise can have a profound impact on neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is how the brain adapts to various experiences. It’s the capacity of the brain to reorganize its structure, function, and connections in response to the demands placed upon it.

Neuroplasticity can occur at different levels, including cellular, molecular, and cortical. These changes occur throughout the lifespan, and can be both beneficial for chronic pain when exercise is appropriately prescribed.

Here are 5 benefits of strength training that apply to migraine pathophysiology.

Improved Sensory Processing

Migraine has been described as a sensory processing disorder.

Studies have shown changes in how the brain processes these stimuli, and that those with migraine may have altered sensory processing pathways suggesting that dysfunction may be a key factor in the migraine pathophysiology.

Sensory processing is the ability of the nervous system to receive and interpret sensory information from our environments.

This would include light, sounds, touch, and vestibular stimuli. Strength training has been shown to improve sensory processing, which can have a positive impact on migraine.

In one recent study by Sun et al, found that resistance exercise was able to relieve symptoms of vestibular migraine by improving the patients’ vestibular function.

These results suggest that strength training can help reduce symptoms of vestibular migraine and may have broader implications for migraine management.