Is aerobic exercise helpful in patients with migraine? A systematic review and meta-analysis

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2020 Jun;30(6):965-982. doi: 10.1111/sms.13625. Epub 2020 Jan 25.

Abstract

Purpose: To assess the effects of aerobic exercise (AE) on patients with migraine in terms of pain intensity, frequency and duration of migraine, and quality of life.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials were conducted. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated for relevant outcomes and were pooled in a meta-analysis using the random-effects model.

Results: A total of 10 articles from 1950 to 2019 were included, involving 508 patients. The meta-analysis showed statistically significant differences in the decrease in pain intensity (five studies, n = 166; SMD = 1.25; 95% CI 0.47-2.04), frequency (six studies, n = 214; SMD = 0.76; 95% CI 0.32-1.2) and duration of migraine (four studies, n = 106; SMD = 0.41; 95% CI 0.03-0.8), in the short-term. In addition, the meta-analysis showed statistically significant differences in the increase in quality of life (four studies, n = 150; SMD = 2.7; 95% CI 1.17-4.24), even though the Egger's test suggested significant evidence of publication bias for the analysis of quality of life (intercept = 5.81; t = 6.97; P = .02).

Conclusions: There is low- and moderate-quality evidence that in patients with migraine AE can decrease the pain intensity, frequency and duration of migraine and can also increase quality of life.

Keywords: aerobic exercise; exercise therapy; headache; migraine.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic