In March 2020, I became entangled in a vicious cycle of debilitating hormonal migraines. The pounding would start from the moment I woke up and radiate into the front of my forehead for hours each day.
Everything from bright lights in the room to the glare of a computer screen triggered the headaches, and I spent countless days in bed in the dark. When my Tylenol and Motrin stopped working, I knew it was time to search for other natural solutions to get relief.
A TikTok trend known as “silent walking” went viral recently, and was praised for its stress-relieving benefits. The concept of silent walking is to walk without stimulation such as music, an audiobook, or a podcast.
I had actually started doing this over a year before it became popular on social media, and it helped me to relieve my chronic migraine pain.
Doing yoga at home a few days a week only gave me temporary relief without migraine pain, and they would inevitably come back again that afternoon or evening. When the episodes happened, it felt like a freight train barreling down the tracks, through my head.
After a few months, I was able to get a virtual consultation with a neurologist and she told me that in addition to yoga at home, I also needed to incorporate 30-45 minutes of cardio 3-4 times a week. She said this could be either walking or running.
I was skeptical, but my doctor explained that regular cardio activity increases blood flow to the brain, which reduces the frequency of headaches.
I started with short distance walks with stimulation, like music, a podcast, or an audiobook playing constantly in my ear. I assumed that without distraction, walking would be unproductive.
While I was getting some relief from my chronic headaches on my walks, it didn’t alleviate them entirely. I began noticing a pattern: I became more sensitive to noise after listening to music or a podcast, and I couldn’t get rid of the headache with the perpetual sound of the earpiece in my ear.
About a year ago, during an especially challenging headache, I left the earpiece at home and wandered down my regular hiking path in the woods. At around the 30-minute mark, I noticed a shift in how I felt while I was walking in silence. The pounding in my head started to dissipate, I felt less nauseated and less sound-sensitive.
The walk without noise and stimulation in my ear allowed me to focus on the calming sound of my breath and the peaceful visual of the walk itself, instead of other noisy distractions.
Silence was the only thing that helped me on my walks, especially when I was in the midst of a migraine. Silent walking became the way I retreated from my stress, my worries, and my pain. It was the one thing that brought me solace when all else failed.
I have been silent walking for over a year now, walking every single day in silence for anywhere from thirty minutes to one hour, and it has changed my life for the better. I have been able to decrease and almost eliminate my migraines, and it is no longer a chronic issue every month.
Now, anytime I feel that pressure in my head building, I walk until I find soil off the residential path into the woods and all noise switches off. It’s the quick fix, that I never knew I would love so much until I found it.
I went from being unable to function on most days to doing yoga and walking every day, being less sensitive to light, and working full-time again while being the primary caregiver for my two kids.
I can’t say it enough: If you are struggling with migraines it may just change your life too.
Here are a few things that helped me.
Walking away from busy roads in suburban neighborhoods is best. I have a few hiking paths I frequent that are quiet and filled with inspiring sounds of nature. Walking in silence changes your mood and can help with pain and sound sensitivity related to migraines.
If you struggle walking without music, try counting your breaths for the first five minutes. Simply inhale, then count to three. Then exhale, and count to three. Do this until you get to ten. If you find yourself distracted, start over again at one. This method of breathing helps to keep your focus on your breath instead of other distractions.
Similar to people being advised to go to a dark room when they have a migraine, I recommend viewing silence on a walk as a relief from sound stimulation that can make a headache worse on a walk. Silence can help to alleviate a headache.
According to a 2021 NIH study, over 1 billion people suffer from migraine globally and it is “one of the most common neurological diseases worldwide.” And, the Cleveland Clinic states that approximately 1-2.2 percent of people suffer from chronic migraine.
Silent walking changed my perspective on walking without stimulation; it went from something that I dreaded doing to the gift of pain relief. If you are a migraine sufferer, it may be worth a try and could help you too.
Lisa McCarty is a writer and a women’s health advocate for infertility, mental health, and maternal health. Lisa also runs a strategic PR consulting firm focused on helping female entrepreneurs in health, wellness, and fashion to share their stories in the global media.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
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