Exercise Made Irresistible!

The migraine condition will take over your timetable. It’s nearly impossible to keep a regular schedule because the pain from a migraine can be so debilitating that you barely have enough strength to take to your bed for an attack that lasts a few hours, a day, or a few days. 

Exercise can be a migraine trigger for some, making it impossible as a pain relief option. Yet you MUST exercise to get your brain to generate your dose of pain-killing hormones.

Inspired by his military service, the lyrics to one of Irving Berlin’s countless hits begin: “Oh, how I hate to get up in the morning! … Oh, how I hate to hear the bugle calling: ‘Ya gotta get up! Ya gotta get up! Ya gotta get up in the morning'”. Every migraine sufferer will concur wholeheartedly. 

Have you ever found yourself doing the dishes with the radio blaring in the background and suddenly found yourself dancing around the kitchen floor to an irresistible tune? Make note of that song, and use it to motivate you to move. 

When I began exercising with my cellphone earpiece in one ear (you can still hear the music, but remain safe to listen to what’s going on in your environment and not act asocially by not responding to a passerby), I cut my exercise time in half the first day. 

The same efficiency (number of kilometers covered), but instead of listening to my own enabling “I-really-want-to-be-in-my-comfy-bed” walking rhythm, Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere” put a bounce in my step. 

Let the rhythm of the music carry you, give you breath (when you’ve convinced yourself you’ve run out of it), motivate you, and counter the defeatist loop playing in your mind: “You’re tired… you’ve done enough for today… this or that hurts… You’re too tired to exercise today…”.

Van Halen’s “Jump!” Starship Enterprise’s “Nothing’s Going To Stop Us Now” and Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” are just a few lively tunes that make the heart glad and get the blood flowing. 

Find a way to exercise despite a migraine attack. Be creative – anything goes, as long as it keeps you as comfortable as possible while moving. You will feel better, even during a migraine, if you can sit in a plastic chair under a warm shower, with the spray directed at the head, shoulders and back, the acupuncture points on the face, and do a routine of slower, steady movements from the chair, focusing on breathing to make up for when a sudden surge of pain takes your breath away – that’s one option.

Find a way to steal some minutes to exercise. Your migraine pain can’t be everywhere at once – if you have a respite from pain as you are lying in bed with an attack, find a way to not only move arms and legs,  which might make you feel nauseous, but try to remember to breathe regularly and stave off the nausea. 

You will be thirsty during a migraine. If you eat or drink anything, you may be too nauseous to keep it down more than a minute or two. Instead of pure water, find a relaxing weak tea infusion that you prefer, and drink that in very small sips. You may vomit it up soon enough, but some of it will stay behind to do some good, even if it’s only enough for you to emotionally thumb your nose at the migraine – “Nuts to you – I kept down some painkiller!”

Migraines like nothing better than to take advantage of weakness on your part, and not getting enough exercise definitely weakens you. Ask a fitness instructor to help you determine your average ideal daily exercise level.  If you develop a migraine and have to skip a day of exercise, make up for that lost exercise and spread it out over the next few pain-free days to still get in your ideal amount of exercise. 

On days when you are migraine-free, even though you want nothing more than a sleep cure, go to the gym, where the presence of others and a fitness instructor will encourage you, and go through a routine that is more than your average. That will tire you out enough to sleep soundly the next night – hopefully in better condition than if you had been a couch potato all day, delaying the next attack.

The idea is to outsmart and unbalance the migraine cycle. Over time, when you are determinedly going through your anti-migraine routines, you begin to delay the attacks to lessen their severity while strengthening your immune system. 

Slowly but surely – and not always regularly! – you increase your pain tolerance and strengthen your nervous system so you are less reactive to migraine triggers. And that means you are getting ahead in the game.


  • Carla Piringer

    Related to noted medical professionals, afflicted with an inherited excruciating migraine condition, the author followed traditional medical and alternative therapies, now living migraine-free for over 35 years. She now shares her doctor-recommended method in her book to inspire sufferers to find significant pain relief.

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