NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Exercise does not appear to reduce migraine attacks or their duration, although it may cut down on the intensity of the headache pain in those who suffer from migraines, according to published studies.

“Exercise in migraine is recommended and even promoted in almost every reference textbook, patient guidebooks, or on migraine web pages,” Dr. Volker Busch, of the University of Regensburg, Germany, and a colleague noted in the journal Headache.

“Most of these recommendations refer to some anecdotal reports or observational studies in literature stating that regular exercise can reduce the frequency and severity of migraine or even eliminate it completely.”

In the current review, the researchers examined whether recommendations for exercise in migraine therapy are based on adequate data to meet the requirements of an evidence-based modern migraine therapy. The review summarizes all available studies and case reports that investigated exercise and endurance sports in migraine therapy.

A total of eight studies and four case reports were included in the review. The researchers report that most studies did not find a significant reduction of headache attacks or duration due to regular exercise. Six of the studies demonstrated a reduction of pain intensity during the intervention.

“Due to numerous methodological limitations (uncertain diagnoses, small case numbers, mostly no control group, no detailed information about the headache before and after the treatment, etc.) the effect of aerobic exercise in migraine can only carefully be estimated in the reviewed studies,” the researchers explain.

“To further recommend exercise in migraine based on evidence based medicine criteria, more studies are imperative.”

SOURCE: Headache June 2008.