09 November 2014

Strength for the Journey -- The Pain / Benefit Compromise

I wrote a week ago about beginning a new exercise regime with a personal trainer at the nearby YMCA. Two days a week, I have a thirty-minute session with Veronica, during which we work on my goals of (1) back and core strength; (2) upper body strength; and (3) flexibility. And although whatever migraine pain I have that day is one or two degrees worse when the sessions are over, I am really pleased with the results and the way I feel otherwise.

Photo by William Marsh
I think of this as the pain / benefit compromise.

Here's the background: We migraineurs are told to rest and stay quiet -- don't lift, don't bend over, don't get your heart pounding -- when we have a migraine. Activity of almost any kind makes our heads feel worse.

But I spent a few years resting and hoping staying quiet would decrease the severity and number of migraines I had per week. It did not.

Then, two years ago, when I threw my back out for the umpteenth time and finally got the MRI that diagnosed degenerating discs, I had to go to physical therapy or I ran the risk of ending up immobilized one day. And what I noticed about the physical therapy sessions was that, even though they made migraines worse, I felt better in other ways.

That experienced made me willing to try the training at the Y. And, three weeks in, I find it all confirmed. 

I have accepted the fact that I'll be in more pain when I'm finished a workout or training session because I know I will feel physically better, have more stamina, feel emotionally and spiritually better, and will be able to approach pain management both more positively and from a plateau of greater overall health.

The compromise is well worth it. What a relief.

Thanks for reading my blog. You can leave a comment below or email me at carold.marsh@gmail.com.


  1. You may find, as I have, that as your exercise becomes a habit and as you plateau out (as you will in time) in how much you do, the migraines will adapt. They might not get better, but you might find that exercise has little influence one way or the other. So keep at it if you can! Like all other things in my life, migraines seem to respond well to a consistent routine. At least that has been my experience!

    1. Thank you, Anonymous, for the encouragement. This is an interesting thought, that migraines seem to respond well to a consistent routine. When I think about it, I realize it's true for other adaptations I've made - to the writing life, for example. I like to think it'll be the same for exercise.