Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)


Who wants to exercise when your head is pounding?

Headaches and multiple sclerosis often go hand in hand, so to speak. (Sure. Tell us something we don’t already know.) And, even though MS may make exercise extra challenging, experts often suggest that physical activity may alleviate certain types of headaches.

How many of us have groaned to hear doctors nag us about exercising more to ease our agonizing pounding heads?

“Thanks, Doc. I’ll get back to you on that.”

I’m not saying physicians need to pull out their prescription pads every time we have headaches. It’s pretty easy to see why adding more medicines isn’t always the answer. But maybe exercise isn’t the fix-all for all varieties of headaches, either.

When your head is throbbing, isn’t exercising just about the last thing you feel like doing?

Maybe it helps with tension headaches. Hey, working up a head of steam might burn off some stress. An all-out workout may not fit the bill, but a walk around the block, a gentle bike ride, or a few sets of chair calisthenics might do the trick.

Endorphins increase with exercise (even moderate exercise). That’s what makes runners keep coming back for more. Endorphins make us feel better, and they even help to reduce pain. Maybe that's why a little exercise actually can help with headaches caused by tension.

But what about other kinds of headaches?

Will exercise actually alleviate these?

  • brain freeze headaches (eg, ice cream headache)
  • caffeine withdrawal headaches
  • cluster headaches
  • dehydration headaches
  • dental-related headaches
  • drug rebound headaches
  • encephalitis headaches
  • fatigue headaches
  • flu headaches
  • food sensitivity headaches
  • hangover headaches
  • hormone headaches
  • hypertension headaches
  • injury-related headaches
  • meningitis headaches
  • migraine headaches
  • overexertion headaches
  • post-spinal-tap headaches
  • pregnancy headaches
  • seasonal headaches
  • sinus headaches
  • sleep apnea headaches
  • spinal headaches
  • TMJ headaches
  • tumor headaches
  • vision-related headaches
  • weekend headaches

Maybe you can think of a few additional types. Some say there are at least 150 kinds of headaches. Well, whaddya know? That’s a head-scratcher. (Sorry, had to.)

Many of these sorts of headaches can signal serious medical conditions or even health emergencies. If a sudden excruciating headache shows up, particularly an unfamiliar kind of brain pain, it’s a good idea to contact the doctor.

But for most of us (especially MSers), headaches can be all too familiar complaints.

I get it. When the worst kind of headache hits, all I really feel like doing is crawling under the covers in a dark, well-ventilated room to sleep off the attack. Exercising is the last thing on my mind then.

But, when the headache finally passes, the pain-free relief makes me want to run and dance and skip and jump for joy. Until that flurry of activity sets off another episode.

 Adapted from public domain artwork
1890 lithograph by J. Williamson

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