Exercise in migraine therapy--is there any evidence for efficacy? A critical review

Headache. 2008 Jun;48(6):890-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2007.01045.x.


Background: Some migraine patients find that regular exercise helps in reducing the frequency of headache attacks. In addition, exercise in migraine is recommended from many headache experts. However, most of these recommendations refer to some anecdotal reports or observational studies in literature stating that regular exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine.

Objective: The purpose of this review is to investigate whether recommendations for exercise in migraine are based on sufficient data to cope with requirements of an evidence-based modern migraine therapy. The review summarizes and discusses all available trials on this topic.

Results: Eight studies und 4 case reports investigated the therapeutic role of aerobic exercise on migraine headache. Some results are controversial regarding the efficacy of sports intervention in migraine. The majority of studies did not find a significant reduction of headache attacks or headache duration and only indicate a reduction of pain intensities in migraine patients due to regular exercise. The grade of recommendation of exercise in migraine based on evidence based medicine (EBM)-criteria is presently B-C. But due to methodological limitations, the available data are insufficient for a final statement on this topic.

Conclusions: To further recommend exercise in migraine based on EBM-criteria, more studies are imperative. Future studies should adhere to the rules for randomized clinical trials in pharmacological migraines prophylaxis. Implications for further studies are given.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Migraine Disorders / physiopathology
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome