(CNN)Waking up with a slight headache that becomes painful enough to hinder daily life is the experience of many who suffer from migraines.

But for those on a medication plan, adding a yoga practice to their treatment repertoire may help to reduce the intensity and frequency of those troublesome migraines, and how many pills they need to take to ease the pain, found a study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

A migraine is an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head that can last for up to three days, with additional symptoms of nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The most common trigger for migraines is stress. Because yoga is a gentle exercise that influences both body and mind, it’s been found to be effective in managing symptoms of this often debilitating condition.

Migraine is one of the most common headache disorders, affecting more than 10% of people worldwide. Despite its prevalence, the condition remains insufficiently treated, the study said, and many people end up having to take time off from work or school, resulting in declining job or school performance and suffering a lower quality of life.

Though medications are the first resort for treatment, only about half of migraine patients find luck with them, the study reported. For some people, medications cause negative side effects or don’t completely take away the pain, said Andrew Russo, who holds two professorships at the University of Iowa — one in molecular physiology and biophysics and another in neurology. He was not involved in the study.


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Trials of previous studies lasted only about a month, or didn’t specify the yoga type, duration or timing, the report said. Given these circumstances, authors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi, India, studied the effectiveness of yoga in tandem with medications for people with migraines.

After a three-month yoga intervention, the participants who practiced a specific yoga module in addition to taking medications had more success in reducing migraine intensity, frequency and the amount of medication they had to take in comparison to the medication-only group.


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