A Scandinavia study 1 was recently released with some interesting data that regular exercise may play an important role in Migraine management. When the news first hit, it was reported that exercise could be just as effective in preventing Migraines as topiramate and relaxation. This caught my eye for several reasons. True, exercise is extremely beneficial to maintain a healthy lifestyle seeing as it reduces the risk of diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and aids in weight loss. However, did the study really say that exercise was just as good as medication to prevent Migraines? What were the conclusions of the study? I needed to see for myself if this statement was accurate.
There were 91 people in the randomized study that was broken down into three groups. The first group exercised for 40 minutes a day - three times a week; the second group used a recorded relaxation program and the third group used topiramate on a daily basis. The participants were followed for three months and then checked again at six months. The interesting thing is the study groups had similar results in their Migraine reduction; no huge differences in the groups. When looking more carefully at the study, one finds the only group who had a reduction in pain severity was the group using topiramate 2.
Ok, here’s the thing, we all know exercise is good for us. We know the benefits of exercise and should make it an important part of our daily routine. But when mainstream media reports a story like ‘Exercise Just As Good As Drugs At Preventing Migraines’ it plays right into Migraine stigma. Would we ever say to a person with epilepsy that exercise is just as good at preventing seizures as drugs? What about someone with multiple sclerosis? Do we tell them that exercise is just as effective as their medication? No, I think not. For some people with epilepsy, exercise will induce a seizure. For some people with ms becoming overheated by exercising will exacerbate symptoms and for some Migraineurs, exercise will trigger a Migraine. To say ‘exercise is as good a drugs in preventing Migraines’ gives the impression that Migraine can be overcome by just exercising. What part of Migraine is it that mainstream media does not understand it is a disease?
First, the titles of some of the stories are not accurate depictions of the study. Emma Varkey, a doctoral student at the Sahlgrenska Academy who conducted the small study and said, “Our conclusion is that exercise can act as an alternativeto relaxations and topiramate when it comes to preventing migraines, and is particularly appropriate for patients who are unwilling or unable to take preventative medicines.” 3 She is not saying that exercise is better than drugs at preventing Migraines. Second, the media really does not do Migraineurs or anyone else for that matter any favors when they report only part of a story. Reading just the abstract does not count, read the entire study, then report on the findings! Creating more stigma is the last thing Migraine disease needs. And to quote Teri Robert, “ there is a huge disconnect between what the mainstream media headlines said about this study and what the study actually says. On this, I could not agree more.
What do you all think?
1 Varkey, Emma; Cider, Asa; Carlsson, Jane; Linde, Mattias. "Exercise as migraine prophylaxis: A randomized study using relaxation and topiramate as controls."Cephalalgia published online 2 September 2011. DOI: 10.1177/0333102411419681
2 Robert, T. "Exercise for Migraine Prevention?" MyMigraineConnection.Com. HealthCentralNetwork.Com October 12, 2011.
Redorbit. "Exercise Just As Good As Drugs Preventing Migraines." Health. October 29, 2011.
Thanks for reading and feel well,
© Nancy Harris Bonk, 2011.Last updated October 30, 2011.