You just finished an intense workout. Sweat is pouring down your face and your struggling to catch your breath. On top of that, you can’t drink enough water to quench your thirst. That’s when the headache comes. Are you sick? No. Why then is there a headache after a workout?
If you’ve ever experienced this, you know a headache after workout isn’t quite the way you would have envisioned spending that post exercise feel good. In fact, it’s ruining things.
We’re going to take a closer look at what causes these headaches after working out and what you can do to prevent a headache after workout.
Why Headache After a Workout?
A headache after a workout is what is called an exertion headache. These types of headaches have nothing to do with your immune system being attacked by a virus or bacteria.
Let’s think about what is happening to the body when you are exercising. Strenuous exercise will put strain on your muscles, especially in the head and neck. As your heart rate increases, the blood flow is increased throughout your body. As this is happening, the blood vessels are dilating to let all that additional blood flow freely, and viola, exertion headache.
It’s that increase in blood circulation that is increasing the pressure, especially on your brain.
The American Migraine Foundation says that cycling, running or weightlifting can all be triggers for an exertion headache. The AMF also lists these types of headaches as “primary” headaches, because they are not brought on by some other underlying condition.
Don’t confuse these workout headaches, or exertion headaches with what are called “secondary” headaches. The secondary headache is known to be caused by some other condition.
Symptoms of Headache After Physical Exertion
There are some common signs you can look for if you believe your headache after a workout is an exertion headache.
Common exertion headache signs include:
Pulsating or throbbing pain, that appears suddenly
Pain caused from a headache that lasts anywhere from 5 minutes to 48 hours
Headache after strenuous exercise
Pain occurs on both sides of the head
What Causes Headache After Exercise?
Just because we call these exertion headaches “primary” where there are no underlying conditions that cause it, doesn’t mean that they are completely random or without triggers.
You might not even be experiencing these headaches every time you exercise. Here are some possible triggers that can be a culprit in bringing on and facilitating the exertion headache.
As we exercise, especially intense exercise, you are losing lots of fluid. If you aren’t properly hydrating before and during this time, your body will lose so much fluid that it affects even your brain.
Because there is also fluid surrounding your brain. When you are very dehydrated, even the fluid surrounding the brain can be decreased, causing your brain to literally pull away from your skull, causing a headache.