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Yoga May Help Ease Migraines

Migraine patients who add yoga to their regularly prescribed treatment plan may experience greater relief from the debilitating condition than when they take medication alone, according to a new study published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The findings show that participants who added yoga to their regimen experienced significant benefits in all areas, including headache frequency, pain intensity, use of medications and how much migraine interfered with daily life.

“Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, but only about half the people taking medication for it get real relief,” said study author Rohit Bhatia, M.D., D.M., D.N.B., of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

“The good news is that practicing something as simple and accessible as yoga may help much more than medications alone. And all you need is a mat.”

For the study, the researchers observed 114 people between the ages of 18 and 50 who had episodic migraine. Participants had been experiencing four to 14 headaches per month and were randomly assigned to one of two groups: medication-only or yoga plus medication.

Individuals in the yoga group were taught a one-hour yoga practice that included breathing and relaxation exercises and postures. The participants were supervised by a yoga instructor three days a week for one month.

Then the participants in the yoga group practiced on their own at home for five days a week over the next two months. Both groups were given the appropriate medications and counseling about lifestyle changes that may help with migraine, such as getting plenty of sleep, eating regular meals and exercising. Participants kept a log about how long their headaches lasted, how severe they were and medications they took.

The study showed participants improved in both the medication-only group as well as the yoga group; however, the benefit was greater in the yoga group in all areas, including headache frequency, pain intensity, use of medications as well as how much migraine interfered with daily life.

For headache frequency, the yoga group started with an average of 9.1 headaches per month, and ended the study reporting just 4.7 headaches per month, a 48% reduction. The medication-only group reported an average of 7.7 headaches per month at the start of the study and 6.8 at the end of the three months, a 12% decrease.

The average number of pills participants in the yoga group used decreased by 47% after three months. Meanwhile, the average number of pills the medication-only group used decreased by about 12%.

“Our results show that yoga can reduce not just the pain, but also the treatment cost of migraines,” said Bhatia. “That can be a real game changer, especially for people who struggle to afford their medication. Medications are usually prescribed first, and some can be expensive.”

One limitation of the study was that people reported information about their headaches themselves, so the results may not be consistent.

Bhatia also noted that the research lasted only three months and that more evidence is needed to determine whether the benefits of yoga would last for a longer period.

Source: American Academy of Neurology


Yoga May Help Ease Migraines

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Yoga May Help Ease Migraines. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 May 2020 (Originally: 9 May 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 9 May 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.