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Yoga may aid migraine sufferers

A new study suggests a combination of yoga and breathing exercises may help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines.

health and fitness Updated: May 21, 2007 14:09 IST

A combination of yoga poses, breathing exercises and relaxation may help reduce the frequency and intensity of migraines, a new study suggests.

Researchers in India found that among 72 adults suffering from migraines, patients who were randomly assigned to take part in a yoga therapy program started having headaches less often and endured less pain with each migraine attack compared with the subjects assigned to a self-care group.

What's more, the pain relief brought considerable improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the researchers, led by Dr P J John of the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur.

The complete study findings are reported in the current issue of the journal Headache.

Gentle yoga postures and breathing techniques are believed to have a calming effect on the nervous system, and studies have suggested that yoga can help alleviate various forms of pain, from chronic back pain to the joint pain of arthritis.

To see whether the practice might aid with migraine, John's team randomly assigned 72 migraine sufferers to one of two groups. One group received education on managing their pain by avoiding migraine triggers and making diet and lifestyle changes.

The other group received yoga therapy, which included gentle yoga postures, breathing practices, relaxation and meditation. Participants practiced five days a week for one hour each day, except on days when they were having a migraine attack or just recovering from one.

After three months, the yoga group showed an overall improvement in the frequency and intensity of their migraine attacks, whereas the comparison group showed either no change or worsened symptoms.

"This study provides preliminary evidence that integrated yoga therapy can be an effective treatment for migraine," John's team writes.

Larger, longer-term studies are now needed to confirm the results, the researchers conclude.