Headaches and Exercise [Do’s and Don’ts]

Headaches and Exercise dos and donts

Whether you are about to begin your workout, or you’ve just finished up, a headache is never ideal. If the headaches are occurring every time you exercise, it’s important to figure out why it’s happening.

If you are experiencing headaches after a workout, there can be an underlying reason such as dehydration or low blood sugar. Here are some reason why you get different types of headache and what to do:

  • Dehydration
  • Low Blood Sugar
  • Exertion and Too Much Intense
  • High Temperatures
  • High Altitude

Helpful Treatments

  • Drink Water
  • Magnesium 
  • Cold Compress
  • Stretching Neck
  • Strengthening Neck and Shoulder
  • Light to Medium Cardio

Each headache type may need a different treatment. Let’s look at some of the common reasons why headaches occur during or after a workout, and what kind of remedies there are for them.

Why do I get headaches when I exercise?

why Headaches and Exercise

An excellent question to ask yourself is why the headaches are happening. If it’s a once in a while occurrence, it might not be as worrisome as if the headaches are happening every single time you exercise. Usually, the issue causing a headache after exercise can be fixed at home. Here are some of the common reasons:

  • Dehydration 
    • Even when you aren’t working out, dehydration can cause a headache. In fact, headaches are usually the first sign of it. When you exercise, you sweat. When you sweat, you lose fluids. When you lose fluids, you become dehydrated, and here we are at the headache. It’s extremely important to make sure you drink plenty of water before a workout, and if this is your issue, the headaches should stop.
  • Blood Sugar 
    • When your blood sugar is low, it can cause a post-exercise headache. Also called hypoglycemia, low blood sugar will make you shaky and dizzy on top of the headache. When you burn energy during a workout, if your blood sugar was already low, to begin with, you will be sure to have a headache after exercise. Make sure to eat a nutritious meal a few hours before exercising to ensure your blood sugar doesn’t drop too low.
  • Exertional Headache 
    • An exertional headache happens when you do any type of physical activity. It can cause pulsing pains and can sometimes last up to a few days. These headaches are only caused by physical activity or a coughing fit that could be triggered by exercise. There are two types.
      • Primary exertional headache 
        • This type of headache only occurs after physical activities such as exercise. These headaches are described as throbbing and affect both sides of the head.  
      • Secondary exertional headaches
        • Underlying health problems cause secondary exertional headaches. Some of these underlying conditions can be a brain tumor or coronary artery disease. If you are experiencing this type of headache, it is very important to seek medical attention. This type of headache can cause vomiting, double vision, and a loss of consciousness.

While there are other reasons exercise-induced headaches happen, these common issues can be remedied at home and hopefully stop your issue. Along with staying hydrated, using over the counter pain reliever can help with headache symptoms.

Getting Rid of a Headache

Get Rid of headache

Getting rid of a headache can be, well, a headache. Here are some recommended remedies.

  • Hydration  
    • Always drink water. Always.
  • Magnesium 
    • Taking a magnesium supplement has been proven to help with headaches, and blood sugar issues.
  • Cold Compress 
    • After your workout, using a cold compress will help relieve headache symptoms.

While there are other reasons exercise-induced headaches happen, these common issues can be remedied at home and hopefully stop your issue. Along with staying hydrated, using an over-the-counter pain reliever can help with headache symptoms.


migraine headache causes exercise

Exercise can also induce migraines which can be far worse than a regular headache. If you have ever had a migraine, you know it can be unbearable and ruin your entire day. Migraines cause severe throbbing pain, sensitivity to sound and light, and vertigo. Intense exercise can trigger a migraine. According to Healthline.com, a study showed that 38% of participants experienced a migraine related to exercise.

Prevention of exercise migraines involves some planning. Make sure to check the weather. It if is going to be hot and sticky, maybe try to exercise indoors to prevent a migraine trigger. As always, stay hydrated. High altitude can also be a factor in migraines, so it’s another important thing to consider when exercising to avoid one.

Tension Headaches

Tension Headaches

Now that we have discussed headaches that can occur when you are exercising, let’s look at tension headaches. Not to be confused with migraines, tension headaches are dull pain headaches with tightness and pressure around the forehead and back of the neck. They are truly terrible, as all headaches are.

We are switching gears here since a recommended remedy for tension headaches is exercise. The absolute last thing you want to do when you have a headache is get up and moving, but in this case, it will help relieve your symptoms. Here is a list of types of exercise to help relieve tension headaches:

  • Cardio 
    • Let’s not get crazy. If you have a tension headache, you don’t want to push yourself with a full-on marathon but try a walk around the block or light work on an elliptical machine. Something to get the legs moving, but nothing too strenuous.
  • Stretching 
    • Doing some light stretching or yoga can help to relieve the pressure the headache has created in your neck. Again, don’t push yourself, but working on stretches for your neck and shoulders should help.
  • Strength Training  
    • Using tools like resistance bands to strengthen the neck and shoulders can help with tension headaches, as well. This training will also help with any contact shoulder and neck pain. So, you’re getting two birds with one stone here.

Whether you are getting headaches from exercising or using exercise to relieve them if they are not going away with home remedies always consult with a doctor. There is a chance that you may have underlying causes that will need medical attention to relieve the headaches.

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