In a new study, researchers found that adding yoga to the regularly prescribed migraine treatment may be better than medication alone.
The new finding suggests yoga may help people with migraines have headaches that happen less often, don’t last as long, and are less painful.
The research was conducted by a team at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.
Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, but only about half the people taking medication for it get real relief.
The good news is that practicing something as simple and accessible as yoga may help much more than medications alone.
The study involved 114 people between the ages of 18 and 50 who had an episodic migraine.
Participants experienced four to 14 headaches per month and were randomly assigned to two groups: medication-only or yoga plus medication.
The people in the yoga group were taught a one-hour yoga practice that included breathing and relaxation exercises and postures.
People were supervised by a yoga instructor three days a week for one month. Then they practiced on their own at home for five days a week over the next two months.
Both groups received the appropriate medications and counseling about lifestyle changes that may help with migraines, such as getting adequate sleep, eating regular meals, and exercising.
Participants kept a log about how long their headaches lasted, how severe they were, and the medications they took.
The team found people improved in both the medication-only group as well as the yoga group, but the benefit was higher 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%.
The results show that yoga can reduce not just the pain, but also the treatment cost of migraines.
The team says it 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.
The lead author of the study is Rohit Bhatia, M.D., D.M., D.N.B., of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi.
The study is published in Neurology.
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