4 Pilates Exercises for Migraines

Pilates for Migraines
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Roughly eleven million Americans suffer from debilitating migraines more than once a month and many more millions of people in this country exercise regularly. At the intersection of these two figures lies a group of active people who get routinely waylaid by a blinding headache. There is conflicting evidence that exercise is universally good for migraines. Some studies report that for some, exercise can be a trigger while others maintain that regular exercise has the cumulative effect of staving off migraines.

What most studies agree on is that addressing several common issues can have dramatic results with respect to the intensity and frequency of migraines. Taken together all of these every day issues fall neatly into a category of conditions that the Pilates method directly addresses. 

Misalignments

Poor spinal alignment can lead to chronic headaches as well as migraines. Our bodies twist every which way and end up weak or tight or over stretched on one side or the other. imbalances from upper body to lower body as well as front body to back body all contribute to misalignments.

Migraine Move: The Wall

Exercises like the Pilates Wall series are ideal for training your body to establish and then hold proper alignment. It isn't enough to simply experiment with being aligned. Consistent practice and building the strength to hold your body in a symmetrical stance is the only way to even out your musculoskeletal system.

Impaired Breathing

Low oxygen intake is a common cause of poor health.  Low oxygen levels cause vessels to dilate which can lead to migraines. Luckily, there's Pilates to the rescue with the focus on precise breathing. With good Pilates training you will not only learn to breathe fully and deeply but also lengthen your breath cycles allowing for greater O2 uptake and increased stamina.

Migraine Move: The Hundred

The Hundred is a circulatory exercise and one of the first moves done on the Mat. It's not a subtle move and many struggle with the breathing. Focus on a full deep inhale for five counts and a long deep exhale for each of the 10 breath cycles. Even if you can't perform this exercise on your back or can not lift your head or legs up, performing this breathing pattern is good enough.  

Reduced Posture and Strength

The muscles in your neck are a huge part of alignment and posture. Weak muscles in the back of the neck cause the head to jut forward. Tight muscles in the front and side of the neck cause the imbalances that can result in chronic muscle tension and stress on the vertebrae of the neck. All of these factors can up your risk for migraines.

Migraine Move: Neck Roll

The Neck Roll is a wake up call for anyone working on their posture. Working in prone (face down on the stomach) creates the challenge for weak neck muscles to work against gravity. Adding side to side neck stretches and circles is much harder than it looks and sounds.

A full range of motion in the neck is required for good posture and strong neck muscles are needed to hold that good posture. The magic combination of strength + stretch is always the best medicine.

Poor Sleep

Low quality sleep is associated with a host of maladies including migraines. Regular exercise is known to promote not just longer but also higher quality sleep. 

Migraine Move: Regular routine workouts like the basic Pilates Mat can help improve sleep by regulating metabolism and blood sugar, and also improving relaxation and mindfulness. Choose a few of your favorite moves or stick to the basics with the first 5 or 10 exercises in the Pilates mat to do at home. Better yet, sign up for a class at your local studio and make it a regular habit.

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