Since migraine is such a poorly understood and unpredictable condition, migraineurs are constantly on the hunt for approaches to manage and prevent attacks. Alongside medical treatments, everything from specific diets and exercise routines to herbal remedies have been suggested as the “secret” to getting a handle on the disorder. And recently, buzz has been growing surrounding “inversion therapy,” or the use of specialized tables (or other means) to safely invert users, letting them spend minutes at a time upside down take on migraine. 
And if you ask Ava Pendl, a blogger, yoga enthusiast, and episodic sufferer, she’d tell you it’s an approach that’s worked for her. Focusing on “inversions” she could do on her own—primarily head or handstands—she writes: “[t]he fresh circulation of blood and reversed flow of gravity” from being upside down “proved to be my saving grace.”  She noted that the frequency and duration of her attacks reduced significantly after adopting a daily practice.
But the big questions are these: Does it really work? Is it something you should try?
An issue that arises when it comes to health and wellness tips is that they can often be based on personal experience, with little to no research to back them up. In this day and age, when information—and by extension misinformation—can easily spread, it becomes important to view anecdotal evidence with a skeptical eye. Sure, inversion worked for Pendl, but what does the science say about it?
First let’s look at the reasoning offered as to why inversion therapy might work. The underlying idea here is that when you’re upside down, you get increased blood flow to the brain. As a result, the oxygen and necessary nutrients flood brain cells, preventing migraine attacks from forming. As yet, inversion therapy has not been clinically tested for migraine patients, so direct answers—or even suggestions based on the available evidence—aren’t quite there. What is known, though, is that in many cases, migraine arises because blood vessels to the brain are constricted.  Less blood flow means less oxygen getting to the brain cells.
And indeed, studies have shown that increasing oxygen levels in the brain can be helpful for certain types of headaches. According to Dr. George Sands, M.D. of the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, NY, “it is clear that oxygen is a very useful therapy in cluster headaches,” however, “its utility in migraine headaches is less well documented.”  In his own practice, he found that exposing migraine patients to increased levels of pure oxygen—“eight to nine liters a minute for up to 30 minutes”—lead to “some relief.”  Certainly, then, the presence of oxygen may have an influence on headache.
More Questions than Answers
While that sounds promising, it’s important to note that Dr. Sands wasn’t having patients use inversion therapy to achieve results (nor was he, himself, testing them formally).  And, clinically speaking, there is no consensus about whether this approach works for migraine. As advocates of this method continue to speak out, and as we learn more about migraine, there will no doubt be directed studies looking at it.
So is it worth buying an inversion table? Should you try daily reps of headstands to encourage blood flow to the brain? It’s hard to say; in absence of hard data, you have to decide if you trust anecdotal reports. You’ll certainly want to talk to your doctor before trying anything like it. There’s no doubt, though, that managing migraine requires patience and persistence. Some element of trial and error will always be necessary, as will the optimism that an effective solution will be found.
If you’re a chronic migraine sufferer, the team at Migraine Treatment Centers of America is ready to help. The experts here pride themselves in offering the most advanced treatment techniques and technologies to their patients to ensure lasting and effective results. Learn more about them by calling (855) 980-7530 today!
Pendl, A. (2016). This Inversion Practice Helped Me Get Rid Of Migraines. [online] mindbodygreen. Available at: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-27489/this-inversion-practice-helped-me-get-rid-of-migraines.html [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].
Sands, George H. 2007. “Oxygen Therapy | National Headache Foundation” National Headache Foundation. Accessed October 10 2017. http://www.headaches.org/2007/10/25/oxygen-therapy/.
It was an amazing feeling.
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