'All you need is a mat': Doing yoga at least 3 times a week can help ease migraines

According to a new study, doing yoga can help reduce not just the pain, but also the treatment cost of migraines

08 May 2020 - 12:46
By AFP Relaxnews
Yoga could help ease migraines according to new research.
Image: yulkapopkova/iStock via AFP Relaxnews Yoga could help ease migraines according to new research.

New research has found that combining yoga with migraine medication may be more effective for treating the headaches than medication alone.

Carried out by research at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, the new study looked at 114 people aged 18 to 50 who suffered from episodic migraine, which is defined as having zero to 14 headaches per month.

The participants were randomly split into two groups: medication-only or yoga plus medication. Both groups were given the appropriate migraine medications and advice about lifestyle changes they could make that could also help with the headaches, such as getting adequate sleep, eating regular meals and exercising.

In addition, those placed in the yoga group were also taught a one-hour yoga practice that included postures, breathing and relaxation exercises, which they did three days a week for a month while supervised by a yoga instructor. After the first month was over, they practiced alone at home five days a week over the next two months.

All participants were also asked to record the length and severity of their headaches during the study.

The findings, published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, showed that the yoga group started the study experiencing an average of 9.1 headaches per month, but after three months of yoga, this had dropped by 48 percent to just 4.7 headaches per month.

The medication-only group also showed improvements, but they were smaller: after starting the study with an average of 7.7 headaches per month, this number decreased by just 12 percent to 6.8 at the end of the three months.

The benefits were also bigger for the yoga group with regards to how painful the migraines were and how much medication they needed: the average number of pills taken by the yoga group dropped by 47 percent after three months, but only by 12 percent among the medication-only group. The yoga group also reported that migraine interfered with their daily life less at the end of the study.

"Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, but only about half the people taking medication for it get real relief," said study author Rohit Bhatia, MD, DM, DNB.

"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."

"Our results show that yoga can reduce not just the pain, but also the treatment cost of migraines," said Bhatia. "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."

As the study lasted just three months, Bhatia now suggested more research to see whether the benefits of yoga persist over a longer period of time.