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Why exercise won't help most women suffering from migraine

IANS Dec 14, 2019

Despite doctors recommending regular aerobic exercise to prevent migraine, physical exercise can actually be a trigger of migraine attacks for most women because of "anxiety sensitivity" in them, find researchers.


"Anxiety sensitivity" refers to one's fear of experiencing anxiety arousal due to harmful physical, cognitive and socially-observable consequences, may be related to physical activity (PA) avoidance in migraine patients. Migraine affects around 10-15 per cent of the population around the globe, and among its most common diagnosis criteria include a throbbing, unilateral head pain, hypersensitivity to lights, sounds, odour, and aggravation by activity.

Although regular aerobic exercise has been strongly recommended by clinicians as an adjuvant option for migraine prevention, for up to one-third of patients, physical exercise can be a trigger of migraine attacks, thus, it can instead be avoided as a strategy to manage migraine, said researchers.

The study, published in the journal Cephalalgia and highlighted an overlooked relationship between migraine and exercise, was led by Samantha G Farris from Rutgers, Department of Psychology, the State University of New Jersey. The researchers assessed 100 women with probable migraine, who filled an online survey covering anxiety sensitivity scores, intentional avoidance of moderate and vigorous physical activity (PA) in the past month, as well as the self-rated perception that exercise would trigger a migraine attack and worse migraine symptoms.

The results showed that increased anxiety sensitivity scores associated with PA avoidance of both moderate and vigorous intensities. One-point increase in the anxiety sensitivity scale resulted in up to 5 per cent increase in the odds for avoiding PA. Migraine is a highly prevalent and disabling neurological disorder, in which regular PA is part of current non-pharmacological treatment recommendations. The authors wrote that "patients with migraine and elevated anxiety sensitivity could benefit from tailored, multi-component intervention".

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