Yoga may help migraine sufferers get some relief, a new study suggests.
Medications are the first-line treatment for migraine, but they work for only about half of patients, and many drugs have side effects that make about 10 percent of people stop using them.
Researchers in India randomized 114 patients with episodic migraines to one of two groups. The first received conventional medical therapy as prescribed by their doctors; the second got conventional treatment, plus a yoga program that included breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and yogic postures. Patients learned the program in one-hour sessions three days a week for a month under the supervision of a yoga therapist, and then practiced the routines at home, five days a week for the next two months.
The study, in Neurology, found that both groups showed a reduction in the frequency and intensity of headaches. But the yoga group tended to get significantly fewer headaches, had less intense headaches, and consumed fewer pills, even though the average headache frequency was higher in the yoga group at the start of the study.
“If you have migraines, you should talk to your physician about adding yoga to your treatment,” said a co-author, Dr. Gautam Sharma, a professor of cardiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. And if you decide to pursue yoga, he added, “you should learn it with a qualified yoga therapist under the supervision of a physician.”