Exercise - a pain in the head?

Have you ever found yourself with a throbbing headache during or after exercise?

If you have, you might have experienced an exercise headache.

Exercise headaches occur during or after sustained, strenuous exercise – specifically, running (often called the “jogger’s headache”), rowing, tennis, swimming and weightlifting.

They’re suggested to happen for a few reasons – one of which, is a sudden shift in blood pressure.

When we’re exercising, we put additional demands on our cardiovascular system. Our heart pumps harder and faster to circulate blood to deliver oxygen to our muscles. As a result, our blood pressure increases. When we stop exercising, our blood vessels constrict and our blood pressure gradually returns to normal.

To avoid this type of headache, a warm-up, and cool-down come highly recommended.

The transition from one level of activity to another is less sudden, giving your body time to react. Blood vessels dilate or constrict in a more gradual way and you’re less likely to hit a sudden blood pressure peak.

Another reason these happen - although still being investigated - is the pressure going from your chest to your brain via your venous system. This is known as internal jugular vein valve incompetence (IJVVI), and it may primarily occur during a phenomenon called the Valsalva maneuver, which can happen when you exercise – particularly as you push your body through a really difficult move. A Valsalva maneuver is essentially when you hold your breath while exerting yourself, creating pressure in your chest.

To help with this, consider checking your technique. Incorrect technique might lead to muscle tension which can quickly turn into a headache, especially if you’re using your neck and shoulder muscles. Weight lifting, push ups, sit ups, and running can all lead to tension in your neck if they aren’t done properly.

And of course, be mindful of your breathing. Make sure you’re breathing in, but most importantly, that you’re also breathing out.

 

Disclaimer

Readers are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and treatment and to ascertain whether a particular therapy, service, product or treatment described on the website is suitable in their circumstances. 

 

References

Exercise Headaches: Why You Get Headaches After Working Out (webmd.com)

Exercise Headaches - National Headache Institute

Yes, Exercise Could Actually Be Triggering Your Migraines | SELF

Exercise headaches - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic