Yoga potential option for migraine treatment

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Adding yoga to regularly prescribed migraine treatment may be better than medication alone, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.

The study involved 114 people between the ages of 18 and 50 who had 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. They then 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 migraine, 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 medications they took, according to the study.

The study showed 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, the researchers said.

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 percent 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 percent decrease.

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

"Our results show that yoga can reduce not just the pain, but also the treatment cost of migraines," said Rohit Bhatia, MD, DM, DNB, study author of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India. "That can be a real game changer, especially for people who struggle to afford their medication.”