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Yoga For Migraines: Asanas That Work

  • Dr.Sreelekha Daruvuri Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri
  • 4 Min Read
  • Fact Checked

A migraine is more than just a bad headache and it can last for a few hours to days. There can be a cluster of symptoms and the effects of migraine headaches can interfere with daily activities. It is more prevalent in women and the condition also has a strong genetic component. Often it is preceded by an aura in about 1/3rd individuals. An aura is a group of sensory, motor, speech symptoms that may act as a signal before the migraine starts. These include visual disturbances like flashing lights, blind spots, motor disturbances like vertigo, and sensory disturbances like numbness. Some patients can experience just aural symptoms without a headache. Treatments for a migraine headache include not only medication but also lifestyle changes. One of the lifestyle changes that many people incorporate is Yoga. Can migraines be cured by Yoga? Yoga for migraines can be helpful, and this article will detail some of the asanas that can be done to help with migraine symptoms.

A migraine is due to abnormal brain activity that affects signaling and chemical release. It can also be due to the stimulation of the Trigeminal pathway which releases pain-causing chemical substances. The triggering factors are similar in all the types of migraine headaches – such as alcohol, weather changes, dehydration, hunger, stress, too much or too little sleep etc.

Medical treatments for migraine

Medications that are given to abort an acute migraine attack or prevent progression are:
– Triptans
– Ergot alkaloids
– Opioids
– NSAIDS
– Anti-nausea drugs.

Medication given to prevent the attacks based on the history include:
– Antidepressants
– SSRIs
– Beta-blockers
– Calcium channel blockers.

Non-pharmacological treatment includes:
– Cognitive-behavioral therapy
– Relaxation
– Biofeedback
– Acupuncture
– Massage

Lifestyle treatment for migraines

There are various triggers for migraines, and these should be kept in mind. Furthermore, some lifestyle changes can greatly help the frequency and severity of migraines.
– Certain foods can cause an attack, they should be avoided.
– Avoid bright light
– Maintain body weight
– Get adequate sleep: 7 hrs of uninterrupted sleep is required
– Reduce stress levels: talking to a friend/family/ mental health professional can benefit. Practise Yoga/meditation to reduce stress levels.
– Do not take pain medications without consulting a doctor.
– Do not ignore migraines if they are frequent, consult a physician asap
– Eat regular meals and do not skip meals

Yoga for Migraines: Why does it work? How to do it? What asanas work?

Yoga’s postures, deep breathing, and meditation are known to reduce stress. Some studies have analyzed the impact of yoga on adults with migraine and suggest that it could be very helpful in both treating migraine and fighting the disability associated with migraine. But before practicing yoga asanas for migraine, one needs to take advice from the doctor as a few poses are contraindicated in conditions like spine disorders and hypertension. 

Corpse Pose/Savasana:10-20 min

Yoga for migraines - Corpse pose

– Lie flat on the floor with your back to the ground.
– Spread your legs slightly apart with arms to your side. Your palms turned up

Child’s pose

Yoga for migraines - Child's pose

– Lean forward, keeping your buttocks on your heels, and rest your forehead on the floor.
– Arms can be extended forward or side so they’re next to your legs, palms facing up. Inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply, for at least eight breaths.

Downward Dog 

Yoga for migraines - downward dog

– Come onto your fours. Form a table such that your back forms the tabletop and your hands and feet form the legs of the table.
– As you breathe out lift the hips up, straightening the knees and elbows, form an inverted V-shape with the body.
– Hold the downward dog pose and take long deep breaths. Look towards the navel.
– Exhale. Bend the knees, return to table pose. Relax.

Other poses which add strain to the neck need to be avoided. Following a Yoga instructor is better than doing it on your own, especially for beginners. 

When to see a doctor for migraine headaches?

If the headache is:
– Too severe or unbearable
– Associated with confusion and disorientation
– Associated with loss of consciousness
– Accompanied with seizures or fits
– Accompanied with weakness in one side of the body 

These could indicate something more serious than just migraine. Getting evaluated with a head CT scan or MRI on the advice of the health professional can help in diagnosing any condition early and prevent complications.

While all types of migraines are usually diagnosed by a physician, and at times can be self-diagnosable, it’s important to understand that headaches can be caused by other abnormalities. If you’ve been suffering from severe and constant headaches, don’t self-diagnose, and consult with a general physician instead. Receiving a proper diagnosis i.e which of the above types of migraines, is important because it rules out any other causes and therefore a treatment plan can be set in place. 

  • Dr.Sreelekha Daruvuri
  • Written by

    Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri

Dr. Sreelekha Daruvuri, MBBS with 5+ yrs of experience working as a Primary care Physician on MFine. She initially worked with corporate hospitals and then as a resident in JIPMER for 2 years. She believes in a holistic approach to health care. She is also a public speaker, a blog writer and holds an interest in spreading awareness on health through digital media.

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