REALLY? BRIGHT LIGHT AND EXERCISE TRIGGER MIGRAINES

MIGRAINES IN THE NEWS

 
Anahad O’Connor tackles health myths.

THE FACTS

ManyMIGRAINEsufferers are wary ofEXERCISEand bright, flickering lights. Participants in various studies have said thatBRIGHT LIGHTS ARE THE CAUSE OF THESE SEVERE HEADACHES ABOUT HALF THE TIME. Exercise seems toPROVOKE ABOUT 20 PERCENT OF MIGRAINES.

But the medical literature on migraine causes is based almost entirely on self-reporting. Rarely have researchers tested these triggers directly, raising some skepticism about whether they are truly to blame.

To figure that out, a team of scientists recently studied 27 people who reported that strenuous exercise and bright or flickering lights triggered their migraines. The researchers subjected the participants to different types of stimulation and monitored them. To look at the effects of intense exercise, the subjects ran or pedaled on stationary bikes at a pace that brought them close to their maximum heart rates. In other scenarios, the subjects were exposed to bright lighting.

The study, published in the journal Neurology, found thatNONE OF THE SUBJECTS HAD MIGRAINES AFTER EXPOSURE TO LIGHT ALONE. Six experienced migraines from exercise alone or from a combination of bright light and exercise.

Some experienced what are known as migraines with aura. In such cases, a headache is preceded by a warning sign of some kind, often a visual disturbance. Though light exposure did not seem to be much of a trigger, at least by itself, the researchers did note that exercise may indeed be a reliable cause for a small group of migraine sufferers.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Unlike exercise, bright light may not be a cause of migraines. But more research is needed.

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT ON 01/29/2013, ON PAGE D5 OF THE NEWYORK EDITION WITH THE HEADLINE: THE CLAIM: BRIGHT LIGHT AND EXERCISE TRIGGER MIGRAINES..

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