Effects of Yoga Therapy on Migraines


Effectsof Yoga Therapy on Migraines

Backgroundof Migraines

Migraineis a term that has roots in ancient medicine, but there areincongruities on whether it is a disease, a group of symptoms or acondition (Hay, 2003). Nonetheless, most scholars concur thatmigraine is a ‘complicated brain event’ linked to an assortmentof symptoms, both systemic and neurologic (Hay, 2003). The wordmigraine originates from the Greek work hemikrania that means ‘”halfof the head” due to the fact that pain occurs in one half of head(Peart, 2006). In some cases pain may spread to the entire head. Eventhough headache is one of the most conspicuous symptoms of migraine,a range of other symptoms may occur before, during and following theheadache.

Thepain from headache in all cases does not start from inside the brain,since it is a scientific fact that the human brain cannot feel Pain,rather pain from a headache starts in other parts of the body such asthe blood vessels, tissues and muscles that enclose the brain andnerves around the neck and scalp (Peart, 2006). Experts categorizeheadaches as primary or secondary. A headache is termed as primary ifa disease o other medical condition is not the cause of the pain. Itencompasses tension headache which is the most common of the primaryheadache and that accounts for almost all headache that afflicthumans (Hay, 2003). The second primary headache is the neurovascularwhich encompasses migraine and cluster headaches. Neovascularheadaches are caused by an interaction between the blood vessels andnerve aberration (Hay, 2003).

Secondaryheadaches occur due to other medical conditions. These may includestroke, sinusitis, neck abnormalities and injuries. In some casessinus and nasal infections may be responsible to secondary headache(Peart, 2006). Even so it is not uncommon for an individual toexperience both types of headaches. As stated above most headacheare caused blood vessel problems and muscle contraction (migraine)and as such Yoga plays a crucial part n alleviating the condition.

Migraineis essentially a disorder of function, conditioned in individualswith a constitutional predisposition, by working or home environment(Peart, 2006). A sudden change in external environment, for example,a temporary shift to an enclosed and protected pace such as in ahospital, can result in a mitigation of symptoms.

Themain factors that precipitate Migraine Include

  • Allergy

  • Infections and debilitating illnesss

  • Functional hypoglycaemia

  • Menstruation

  • Food sensitivities

  • Fatigue

  • Excessive sensory stimulation

  • Others for example climate (Hay, 2003)

Itis estimated that close to 30 million Americans are suffer frommigraine at one point on their life. It is also estimated that womensuffer from migraine three times more frequently than men (Hay,2003).

Typesof Migraine


Migrainesare classified as classic (migraine with aura) and common migraine(without aura). There are four main stages to a migraine although notevery patient goes though all the phases (Peart, 2006). They includeProdrome , Auras, Attack, Postdrome


Itis phase that marks vague symptoms that occur before a migraineattack. It is marked by the following symptoms decreased appetite,drowsiness, thirst, mood changes, fatigue, restlessness anddepression, confusion, speech disturbance and weak arms and legs(Peart, 2006).


Thisaffects 1 in every five patient and is described as a sensorydisturbance that takes place before a migraine attack. Auras caneither be positive or negative (Peart, 2006). Positive aurasencompass scintillating scotoma while negative auras include tunnelvision, dark holes and even blind spots. Some patient experience bothtype of aura.


Thisphase marks the beginning of the standard migraine symptoms such assevere pain on one half of the head, increased sensitivity to lightand noise, nausea, numbness, vomiting, and visual symptoms (Peart,2006). .


Thismarks the period after the migraine attack and is accompanied byfelling of exhaustion and mentally fogginess (Peart,2006).


Thisis a case where people experience on-going cases of migraine. It ismarked by bouts of headaches when patient are in the 20s and 30s andcontinues to increase in frequency with time (Peart, 2006). In laterstages it occurs for about 50% of the days of the month. It iscaused by overuse of migraine medication, although other factors suchas obesity and caffeine overuse may increase the vulnerability ofpatients (Peart, 2006).

Variationsof migraine


Avariation of migraine that is associated with women’s menstrualcycle. The fluctuation of progesterone and estrogen is believed toplay a big role (Peart, 2006). It is estimated that close of half ofthe migraine cases reported in women have an association withmenstruation. Menstrual migraines are more severe and last for alonger time than other types of migraine in women (Hay, 2003).


Regardedas a subtype of migraine with aura, basilar migraine begins in thebasilar blood vessel (artery) which forms at the base of cranium. Itmainly occurs in young people, and it key symptoms include ringingin the ears, severe headaches, vertigo, slurred speech and in somecases loss of consciousness (Peart,2006).


Ophthalmoplegicmigraine mainly affects children and young adults. In most cases itis less severe than standard migraine. Pain is usually concentratedon the one eye. Key symptoms include paralysis of the eye, droopyeyelid, double vision and vomiting (Peart,2006)..


Thistype of migraine is associated with lost vision of one eye that lastsfor minutes. It is usually preceded by a headache, although in somerare cases it develops without pain (Peart,2006).

FamilialHemiplegic Migraine

Thisis one of the most severe types of migraine that is passed from onegeneration to another through genetic. It causes vertigo, blurredvision and paralysis of one side of the body. These are accompaniedby headache that occur 10-90 after the symptoms (Peart,2006).


Thisis one of the rarest type of migraine, but one of the most serious.It may last for days and sometimes week s and in many cases calls forhospitalization (Peart,2006).

Treatmentof Migraine

Thereis no knowncure for migraine but there are range of treatment toease symptoms. There are numerous over the counter pain killers suchas ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin which can reduces pain (Kisanetal.2014).In patients who cannot manage to swallow because of vomiting,there are suppositories. Nonetheless it is important to adhere to thephysician’s prescription to avoid painkiller headache. In somepatient Triptan medicines can be used, especially when pain killersdo not work (The Art of Living Center, 2014). Triptan are medicinesthat reverse the changes in the brain such as vessel contraction toblood vessels to alleviate pain in the head. Other includesanti-emetics and combination of medication that lessen migrainesymptoms. In 2014 National Institute for Health introduced the TMS(transcranial magnetic stimulation0 for treatment of migraine wthaura. The TMS devise is delivers magnetic pulses to the head which isbelieved to reduce severity of migraines.

Definitionof Yoga

Basedon information provided by the international Journal of Yoga,individuals suffering from migraine can substantially reduce theintensity and lower the episodes of migraines by practicing yoga(Kisanetal.2014).Yoga is an old practice that encourages holistic living through ablend of breathing and posture techniques. The most importantelements of using yoga to alleviate migraines rest on the fact thatit does not have any side-effects on the sufferer (The Art of LivingCenter, 2014). Yoga is a body and mind therapy that began in ancientIndia and which is now practiced in different parts of the world toaddress some of the most chronic ailments (The Art of Living Center,2014). Yoga encompasses deep breathing, unique postures andmeditation. There are only a few studies that have looked into howyoga can help reduce pain conditions such as migraine, and as suchmore studies need to be done to see how yoga can help reduce theintensity of their disabilities linked to migraine. Studies show thatapproximately 10 percent of Americans suffering from migrainepractice yoga (Kisanetal.2014).


Instudy conducted by Kisan etal.(2014) to evaluate the efficacy of yoga as an adjuvant therapy inpatients suffering from migraine, by evaluating autonomic functionsand clinical outcomes, yoga was found to have immense benefits onboth tests. Kisan etal.(2014) Study assessed a group of 30 migraine patient that used yogafor 5 days in six weeks and another group that used conventionalcare. Clinical evaluation entailed intensity and frequency ofheadaches and effects of the headache, while autonomic functionassessment was done at the start and end of the intervention (Kisanetal.2014).

Yogawas found to lower the stress arousal pattern, bring stable autonomicbalance in disease and health and reduce stress hormones. Exercisetraining was found to improve vaga modulation via nitric oxide andangiotensin II. Angiotensin has been one of the main elements thatinhibit cardiac activity (Kisanetal.2014).Yoga exercises were also linked to improved endothelial activity andnitric oxide bioavailability, which lowers sympathetic activities.

Benefitsof Yoga

Practicingyoga techniques for five minute each day help the body to be preparedfor the next migraine attack. The benefits derived from thistechnique depend on the technique applied (The Art of Living Center,2014). The following are some of the most notable yoga techniques(poses) that can help migraine patient alleviate their condition.Standing forward bend has the effect of revitalize the nervous systemby calming the mind and enhancing blood supply to the brain (The Artof Living Center, 2014). It also assists to relax the mind, loweranxiety and keep the pressure of the blood under control. Anotherstyle known as bridge pose is an important stress reliever. This posehelps stretch the things, hips, calm the mind all of which relievefatigue and stress (The Art of Living Center, 2014). It not onlycalms the mind but also reduces the intensity of headache. Stretchingimprove breathing and blood circulation in the body, and this servesas an excellent pose to relax tense muscles which is one of the bestways to get rid of pain (The Art of Living Center, 2014). The corpsepose revivifies the body by creating a conducive condition formeditative rest.

Kisanetal.(2014) asserted that human information processing during the courseof te yoga exercises can shift at cortical level in the limbic andhypothalamus that consequently modulates the pituitary and immunereactions (The Art of Living Center, 2014).


Migraineis a unremitting disorder with intermittent disabilities and hence itnecessitates long term intervention and preventive strategies. Thereare various types of migraines Ophthalmoplegicmigraine, basilar migraine, abdominal migraine, familial Hemiplegicmigraine, status migraimosus, retinal migraine and menstrualmigraine. These have distinct symptoms and effects but one of theubiquitous trademarks is the splitting headache on one side of thehead. Treatment and management of migraine entails both preventiveand acute drugs together with non-pharmacological approach. Eventhough massive milestone has been made in the realm of treatment ofmigraine, current intervention does not offer total relief to manymigraine patients. Yoga has been identified as one of thenon-pharmacological measures that has served as a suitablealternatives to standard medical therapy. It has been establishedthat yoga can alleviate the intensity and frequency of migraine, canimprove blood circulation in the body, relax the tense muscles,reduce pain in the head, improve breathing, and relievefatigue and stress.


Hay,K.M. (2003). The Background of Migraine. TheJournal of the College of General Practioners 6:8–14. Retrievedfrom: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2612794/

Kisan,R., Adoor, M., Rao, R., Nalini, A., Kutty, B.M., Murthy, C., Raju, T.R. and Sathyaprabha, T.N. (2014). Effect of Yoga on migraine: Acomprehensive study using clinical profile and cardiac autonomicfunction. InternationalJournal of Yoga ,7(2):126–132. Retrieved from:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4097897/

Peart,A. (2006). TheComplete Guide To Migraine Headaches: What Everybody Should KnowAbout Migraine.SmarteBookshop.

TheArt of Living Center. (2014). CureMigraine with Yoga.Retrieved from:http://www.artofliving.org/in-en/yoga/health-and-wellness/yoga-for-migraine