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Doing yoga may help you suffer less from migraines alongside taking your medication, study suggests

The number of migraines reported over a three-month period fell by almost half in the study of over 100 people.

Image: Shutterstock/EpicStockMedia

ADDING YOGA TO your regularly prescribed migraine treatment may be better than just taking the medication alone, according to a new study published today in the American Academy of Neurology medical journal.

The research suggests that yoga may help people have headaches that happen less often, don’t last as long and are less painful. 

The study led by Dr Rohit Bhatia from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi involved 114 people between the ages of 18 and 50 who had episodic migraines.

Participants experienced between four and 14 headaches a month, and they were randomly assigned to two groups: medication-only or yoga and the medication.

Those in the yoga group were taught a one-hour yoga practice that included breathing and relaxation exercises and postures.

They were supervised by a yoga instructor three days a week for one month.

They then practiced it at home on their own for five days a week over the next two months.

Both groups received the appropriate medication for their migraines and counselling about lifestyle choices that may help such as getting adequate sleep, eating regular meals and exercising.

Each participant kept a log about how long their headaches lasted, how severe they were and medications they took. 

While both groups reported improvements, the benefit was higher in the yoga group across headache frequency, pain intensity and how much the migraine interfered with their daily lives.

The yoga group started with an average of 9.1 headaches per month. This dropped to 4.7 headaches a month by the end of the study. 

The medication-only group reported an average of 7.7 headaches a month, dropping to just 6.8 at the end of the three months. 

Dr Bhatia said: “Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, but only about half the people taking medication for it get real relief.

The good news is that practicing something as simple and accessible as yoga may help much more than medications alone. And all you need is a mat.

A limitation noted on the study was that people reported information about their own headaches themselves, so the results may be inconsistent. 

Furthermore, the study only lasted three months so more research would be needed to see if the benefits of yoga lasted for a longer period. 

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Sean Murray

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