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Yoga for Migraine

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Updated February 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

For relief of migraines, some people turn to yoga (a mind-body practice that combines physical postures with deep breathing and meditation). Although there is very little scientific support for yoga's migraine-fighting effects, the available research suggests that yoga may possibly be of some benefit to migraine sufferers.

How Can Yoga Help with Migraines?

Stress is a key trigger for migraine attacks, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Regular yoga practice is thought to help ward off migraines by alleviating stress. While the NINDS doesn't specifically recommend yoga for the management of migraines, the institute notes that stress management strategies may reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks.

The Science Behind Yoga and Migraines

To date, very few studies have tested yoga's effectiveness as a migraine therapy. However, one of the few available studies suggests that yoga may help tame migraines.

Published in the journal Headache in 2007, the study involved 72 patients with migraine. For three months, the patients either practiced yoga on a regular basis or continued with their usual self-care. By the study's end, members of the yoga group had experienced a significantly greater decrease in migraine intensity and frequency compared to the self-care group. What's more, the yoga-practicing participants reported less anxiety and depression than the other study members.

Should You Use Yoga to Stop Migraines?

It's too soon to recommend yoga for treatment or prevention of migraines. However, there's some evidence that taking up yoga could enhance your overall health. Due to its stress-reducing effects, yoga shows promise for protection against a number of health conditions (such as high blood pressure).

While yoga is generally considered safe, certain postures may be difficult to achieve or may induce muscle and/or joint damage if not executed properly. If you're thinking about using yoga to manage your migraines (or any other health problem), talk to your doctor about how to safely incorporate yoga into your health routine.

Sources:

John PJ, Sharma N, Sharma CM, Kankane A. "Effectiveness of yoga therapy in the treatment of migraine without aura: a randomized controlled trial." Headache. 2007 May;47(5):654-61.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Migraine Information Page". February 2011.

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