Is Pilates A Good Workout If You Experience Migraines?

Pilates is a form of exercise that can improve flexibility, strength, and muscle definition, explains the Cleveland Clinic. It was created by a German named Joseph Pilates, according to Total Fitness. He originally intended to help soldiers and dancers who were injured and believed that fitness should include a mental aspect, similar to yoga. Pilates has a strong focus on core strength and a meditative state.

While pilates can use specialized equipment, it can also easily be performed with nothing more than a floor mat, making it a great option for those who want to improve flexibility and strength without feeling overwhelmed, according to Healthline. However, not all pilates are created equal. There are, in fact, multiple different types, such as classical, mat, contemporary, and Winsor, just to name a few (per Livestrong). In general, all pilates will provide the same benefits, possibly even helping with headaches and migraines (via Healthline).

Migraines are a more severe type of headache

While it can be difficult to understand how migraines are different from regular headaches, they do have unique characteristics that make them distinct, according to Mayo Clinic. Migraines are primarily caused by a neurological issue and feel like a throbbing or pulsing sensation on one side of the head. They are usually accompanied by nausea and are very sensitive to light and sound.

Nobody knows exactly how migraines develop from neurological issues.  However, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms, primarily with medication. Acetaminophen and other anti-inflammatory drugs are the first options for mild to moderate migraines, explains the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Pilates may also be a more natural option for helping those with migraine pain, although more research does need to be done (per American Migraine Foundation). Cardiovascular exercise, specifically, has been shown to decrease migraine symptoms, like running, swimming, and cycling.

Pilates can improve posture and decrease back pain

Pilates improves core strength and flexibility which can, in turn, also help decrease chronic neck and back pain, according to Healthline. Why is that important? Because while migraine headaches are primarily caused by neurological issues, many people who have back and neck pain make their migraines worse. One review in The Journal of Headache and Pain confirmed that lower back pain more consistently predicted if someone would experience migraines and tension headaches. In fact, lower back pain can be caused by a weak core, which pilates can help with.

Higher blood pressure can also make migraine symptoms worse while lowering it can reduce migraine symptoms (via a 2020 study). Exercise in general reduces blood pressure, including pilates. One pilates session can reduce blood pressure between 5 to 8 mm Hg (millimeter of mercury) 60 minutes after a session has ended. While pilates can do a good job of reducing migraine symptoms, it works best when combined with medication (via Healthline). Keep in mind, more research needs to be done to determine if pilates specifically improves migraines and not just headaches in general.