If you’re a migraine sufferer who hasn’t found relief from taking only prescribed medication, a newly published study shows that it may be beneficial to add some yoga to your routine.
The findings were published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. They show that yoga, in addition to regularly prescribed treatment, might help headaches happen less often, not last as long and become less painful.
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“Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, but only about half the people taking medication for it get real relief,” study author Rohit Bhatia of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, said in a press release “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.”
For three months, researchers followed 114 people who had episodic migraines and were 18-50 years old. The participants, who experienced four to 14 headaches per month, were randomly assigned to two groups: medication-only or yoga with medication, according to a press release.
The people practicing yoga were instructed by a teacher three days a week for one month, then they practiced yoga on their own for five days a week. The individual yoga practice went on for two months.
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Both groups got the proper medication and counseling about receiving enough sleep, exercising and eating regular meals. Patients logged how long their headaches went on, the severity and the medications they took.
People in both groups improved. However, people who added yoga to their treatment had more benefits.
The yoga group had a 48% reduction in headaches, while the medication-only group reported a 12% decrease in headaches. Among the yoga group, the average number of pills they used decreased by 47% after three months. In the medication-only group, the average number of pills used decreased by about 12%.
“Our results show that yoga can reduce not just the pain, but also the treatment cost of migraines,” said Bhatia, a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “That can be a real game changer, especially for people who struggle to afford their medication. Medications are usually prescribed first, and some can be expensive.”
Bhatia noted that more research must be done to discover if the benefits of yoga would last beyond the three-month study period.