What Can Yoga Do for Migraine Relief?

Yoga can be beneficial in migraine therapy. Yoga changes the way your brain responds to pain, makes your body more sensitive to touch, and gives you better control of stress. Combined with other therapies it may allow for a reduction in the number of headache days per month, indicate studies from Germany.

The Migraine Research Foundation says that nearly one out of five people worldwide suffers from migraine headaches. In the US alone, about thirty million suffer from migraines according to The National Institutes of Health (NIH). There is no cure for migraine but while some manage their condition with medication there are many others who would prefer lifestyle modifications such as yoga before popping a pill every time they feel a headache coming on.

Migraine takes a huge toll on sufferers with days lost to pain, limited ability to work or participate in productive activities. There are no other disorders that affect as many people worldwide as migraines do.

Yoga can help you find relief from migraine symptoms. The ancient practice engages the mind and body which increases your overall relaxation quotient even when you are not doing yoga.

Yoga also changes how your brain responds to pain signals, making your body more sensitive to touch, and giving you better control of stress by increasing serotonin levels in the body thus resulting in a reduced frequency of migraine attacks per month. Yoga’s ability to lower cortisol levels through breathing techniques is one reason it provides migraine relief for some people.

Yoga affects mood-related neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which helps reduce the number of headache days per month as well as the severity of attacks. These effects are not limited to those suffering from migraines but those with other tension-type headaches as well.

Researchers at the University of Heidelberg Medical Centre, Germany, investigated if practicing yoga regularly changed the way migraine sufferers perceive pain and how it affects their brains.

Migraineurs participating in this study were asked to do 30 minutes of yoga on a mat twice a week for six months and maintained diaries throughout this period detailing their individual experiences.

They also participated in brain scans after three months and six months into the study. Migraine sufferers who had been practicing yoga regularly experienced fewer headache days each month and had fewer migraine days than those who were not practicing yoga.

Yoga practice is reported to improve mood and reduce stress and both of these factors decrease the severity and frequency of migraines. The participants also exhibited increased grey matter concentrations in brain regions associated with pain regulation. The researchers concluded that Yoga can be beneficial for relieving migraine symptoms, even when it is only practiced once a week for six months.

Yoga for migraine prevention:

Yoga is a system of practices and disciplines, which originated in India thousands of years ago. It aims to bring the body, mind, and spirit into perfect harmony so that we can enjoy radiant health and inner peace.

Migraine is a chronic disorder occurring due to vascular spasms during which a person experiences severe headaches with neurologic symptoms affecting one-half of the head. It’s often associated with nausea, vomiting, photophobia, phonophobia – hypersensitivity to light or sound respectively – osmophobia – hypersensitivity to smells.

In some cases, there could be aura preceding migraine attacks involving visual disturbances such as flashing lights or zigzag lines in the vision field. Aura usually lasts 20 minutes without treatment but longer durations are sometimes seen. Yawning may also be seen during migraine attacks.

Migraine is almost three times more common in women than men. It’s a multifactorial disorder; genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors play a role in its development. Migraine prevalence also seems to increase during menstruation and decrease after menopause with estrogen levels dropping leading to vasomotor instability which aggravates the severity of the headache and other symptoms during the migraine attack.

Oral contraceptives (OCPs) may worsen or even induce migraine especially if there is a history of it. Although not very well studied but most research indicates that estrogen has the pro-migraine effect like constriction of blood vessels supplying the brain due to which it tends to cause increased frequency and intensity of pain. Other effects of estrogen on migraine are not yet clear.

The exact mechanism by which yoga helps in preventing migraine attacks is still to be studied, but some studies suggest that yoga throbs with the same benefits for people suffering from migraine without aura; it reduces pain severity and improves the quality of life. It has also been seen to reduce the frequency and duration of headache attacks. Yoga also seems to improve mood, decrease anxiety levels and improve coping mechanisms in patients with a chronic headache like migraine. This may help prevent recurrent headaches.

There are different forms of yoga-like Ananda Balasana (yoga pose), pranayama (practice involving regulation of breath), simple relaxation techniques, etc., but the most effective form is Svastha yoga which is a combination of yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Patients are advised to practice twenty minutes of yoga every day after which they can learn relaxation techniques through audiovisual methods to cope with the stress that could lead to migraine attacks.

yoga for migraine and sinus:

Migraine with aura is more common in people with headaches associated with a stuffy nose, i.e. sinusitis. The majority of migraine sufferers also complain about nasal symptoms like blocked nose, runny nose, etc., which are often followed by migraine attacks. Although the reason is not very clear it has been suggested that there might be a link between migraines and inflamed paranasal sinuses (sinuses are air-filled cavities around eyes, cheeks, and nose).

So patients who suffer from both migraine, as well as sinusitis, can benefit from yoga practice because it has excellent effects on easing stuffiness due to its possible effect on the muscles surrounding sinuses leading to improved drainage of fluid accumulating in them.

Nasal obstruction is the most common problem associated with nasal symptoms, so patients are advised to practice yoga breathing exercises like Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) which may help in unblocking the nose and maintaining proper drainage of sinuses. This also has other benefits like balancing the right and left brain hemispheres leading to an improved sense of well-being.

Yoga lowers stress levels by increasing parasympathetic nervous system activity which makes it an excellent complementary therapy for migraine as well as sinusitis because both disorders are aggravated by stress.

It also helps in improving mood and alleviating anxiety which affects the severity of headache attacks. Yoga appears to have beneficial effects on migraines irrespective of whether patients notice an improvement in their sinus symptoms or not. Thus, it acts as a complementary therapy for migraine with or without associated nasal symptoms.


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