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Say Goodbye to 'Headache after Running' with these Easy Steps

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Undoubtedly, running is the best exercise that soothes the mind and body. Thanks to endorphins that balms all the body pains. But, if you experience a headache after running then it is a talk of trouble! A headache after running is common but should not happen! If you are experiencing them, then understand the symptoms and get yourself consulted by a doctor. It is important to go to a doctor because only after some diagnosis and tests can you rule out different medical conditions. If you are suffering from migraine attacks after your run or even during your run it is always recommended to stop whatever you are doing and take a break. Drink enough water and get yourself some rest. The main reason why an individual experience a headache after exercise is that the workout routine was either very extensive or intense.

According to experts, severe headaches are also caused due to dehydration, high blood pressure, upper body muscle tightness (neck, shoulder, chest), low blood sugar, bright sunlight and much more. Some other activities that can cause a headache after the workout are playing tennis, rowing, weight lifting and swimming. We will, however, concentrate on headache after running and learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatment.

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A headache after Running: Bring an End to this Intense Pain

Do you have a severe headache after a long run?

This is a very common thing amongst people who go on regular runs. This is more commonly called as an exercise headache. There is nothing to worry about this as they are harmless and can be treated very easily however it is very important for you to diagnose the cause of your exercise headache and treat them as soon as they occur. Once you diagnose the cause of your headaches you’ll be able to run faster and there won’t any delay in your regular running routine.

Types of Headache after Running

Exercise headaches are generally divided into two categories by doctors – 

  • The Primary Exercise Headache 

  • The Secondary Exercise Headache

Primary headaches are common, harmless and are not connected with any underlying health issue and can be treated quickly with medication. However, the latter is generally considered as a serious issue within the brain. This could be related to a tumor or bleeding inside the brain and needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately. 

headache after running
Agonizing Headaches (source)

Treating a Primary Exercise Headache 

Here are three simple ways how to stop a severe headache after a long run:

1. Identify the Symptom

The most common type of an exercise headache is a primary exercise headache. The main cause of this type of headache, according to some doctors it’s to do with inflammation of blood vessels that is caused because of extensive activity, however, the main cause of this kind of a headache is yet to be known.

Symptoms of primary exercise headaches:

  • Your head begins to hurt as soon as you start the extensive activity
  • You experience a throbbing pain on the sides or just on one side of the head
  • Either of these symptoms occurring from 5 minutes to 48 hours of the activity
headache after exercise
Find out Why You Suffer from Headaches

2. Treating the Headache

Various prescriptions are available which can help you treat the primary exercise headache and what causes them. Some people also take the medicine before they start their workout but most of them do experience a severe pain and may need to take medication on a regular basis. 

Consult a doctor who would prescribe you with headache relief medicines, as they are strong and are very helpful in treating such kind of headaches.

Some of the very common medications are:

  • Propranolol: This blood pressure medication is a strong one which may prevent a primary exercise headaches in some people. This medicine changes the body response to nerve impulses that help in reducing the pain caused due to a headache after running.
  • Indomethacin: This is a medicine that is prescribed to treat inflammation and pain. It is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID). This medication has the power to treat moderate to severe primary exercise headache. However, it is necessary to consult a doctor before taking this medicine and inform him about any health issues you have been experiencing or of any that run in the family. As there could be an increased risk of heart attack or stroke if you consume this medicine without doctors’ consultation.
  • Naproxen: This medicine is very commonly used in treating arthritis pain.  If you are facing any health issues or your family has a health issue history, it is necessary to speak to your doctor before taking this medicine. However, you can get this medicine without a prescription as well but that isn’t recommended. 
  • Ergonovine: Not a really common medicine but a few people after consuming this have been treated with a headache after running. This is a prescription only medicine.
  • Phenelzine: This is a prescription only medicine and belongs to the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) class of antidepressants. It is not a very common medicine, yet it may help in the treatment of headaches which occur due to running. 
headache after workout
Medicines at your Rescues (source)

3. How to avoid a headache in the future?

If you plan on doing an extensive run, it is necessary for you to do a short and quick workout before it. But, this does not work for everyone and if you are prone to exercise headaches, then this will happen irrespective your workout. Some studies also state the reason behind the primary headaches could be a few environmental or medical conditions as well. These could be any of the following:

  • When the altitude you exercise at is very high
  • When the climate is very humid or warm
  • If you have a family history of headaches or a migraine 

Treating Secondary Exercise Headache

Secondary Exercise Headache can be intense and you need to be very careful with the symptoms and treatment. 

1. Identify the symptoms

Symptoms of this type of a headache are more severe than a primary headache but are similar. Most commonly people with this type of headache suffer from not just extreme pain on both sides of the head but also:

  • Consciousness Loss
  • Double Vision
  • Vomiting 

2. Cause of Secondary Exercise Headaches

Understanding this is very important as there are various reasons that could cause this type of headache. It is necessary for you to tell all the symptoms big or small correctly to your doctor so that the cause of this can be identified.

Some of the common causes mentioned here, after research and studies by famous doctors are:

  • There can be a blood vessel abnormality in or around the brain
  • There can be an abnormal development in or around the neck, spine or head region
  • There can be an obstruction in the flow of cerebrospinal fluids infection
  • Subarachnoid Haemorrhaging – This is caused when there is bleeding between the brain and membranes
  • If there is a tumour (malignant or benign)
headaches when working out
Headache Caused By Summer Heat (source)

3. Treatment for Secondary Exercise Headaches

Some of the medications which are mentioned in the treatment of primary headaches may be used for treating secondary headaches as well. But, a correct and effective treatment can only be done after identifying the root cause of the problem. 

Here are a few ways of treating this headache:

  • Secondary headaches occur suddenly and are very severe. The first thing you need to do when you experience this type of headache is that you need to call your doctor for advice
  • Use a cold or hot (whatever suits you) compress on the back of your neck
  • Drink lots of water. Hydration is important.
  • To bring your blood sugar up, eat something. Banana is a good option
  • If you are wearing a head gear which is tight, loosen it up. 
  • Take a break if you experience sudden throbbing in your head. If you get a dark environment it will be better to ease out there

Causes and Preventive Measures for Headache after Running

1. Hydration is very Important

Sufficient blood in the body needs to reach the brain regularly. For this action to happen correctly you need to keep drinking water on a regular basis. Insufficient water in the body decreases the pressure in the arteries, which in turn reduces the blood supply that gets into the lining of the brain. While working out or exercising try as much as you can to drink water at regular intervals. Or if that is not possible, as soon as you get home you need to rehydrate yourself, so that sufficient amount of blood reaches your brain. 

Keep the following in mind

The colour of your urine is a sign of a hydrated or dehydrated body. If you are experiencing dark urine it means that you are dehydrated and your body needs water. Clear urine is a sign of a normal and well-hydrated body. The amount of water intake will depend upon the type and duration of your exercise

Always drink enough water before you start your workout. This will pump up your body and will also keep you fresh and hydrated throughout the regime

headache after running
Drinking water will keep headaches at bay (source)

2. Hypoglycaemia should be Managed

In simpler terms, you need to keep your sugar levels in check. If you are experiencing low sugar levels and are exercising this may be a cause for the headache that you are experiencing. You can control this by the following methods:

  • Consume carbohydrates in the form of fruits. Eat a bananas or an apple before running.
  • Drink fruit juice (one glass a day).
  • You can also drink sports drinks that would boost your energy levels.
headache after workout
Fruit a day will keep headaches away

3. Eat Healthy

Maintaining a healthy diet is important to avoid migraines or headaches. Some factors that need to be considered to avoid the headaches are:

  • Skipping meals is not good. If your experience exercise headaches regularly then skipping meals will trigger in increasing the headaches
  • If you have a migraine or constant headaches, it is always better to avoid consumption of coffee or alcohol
  • Fermented, pickled or marinated food must be avoided as they do cause a lot of headache in an individual

4. Treating the Exercise Headache Symptoms

Ignoring the symptoms will just make the situation worse! As soon as you think that the pain is increasing you can try the following methods to suppress it:

  • Go to a quiet and dark room and sit or lie there for a while
  • Apply a cold or hot compress on the head or at the back of the neck
  • A hot oil head massage or a regular massage for a few also helps a lot

5. Let NSAIDs Help You

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work as a good option for fast pain relief. They will block the inflammation which causes the pain to occur. However, these are available as over the counter medicines but do make sure you consult your doctor before consuming any of them.

6. Avoid Tight Headgear

A tight headgear can cause a lot of trouble when you run. A ponytail which is too tight, a hairband that doesn’t fit you well or a cap, not of your size should be avoided as they add pressure on your head which can be a cause of your head to hurt.

headaches after working out
Tight bands can cause headaches

7. Underlying Health Problems

Running can be a cause of a lot of other problems which lead to a headache. Having an artery disease, a brain tumour or hypertension are all the reasons of having a headache after your run along with other symptoms which you undergo. 

8. Understand if you are Suffering from Migraines

A lot of things can trigger a migraine and not the same reasons will be the cause of it in another individual. If you are running fast and suddenly witness a shooting pain in the head it may be a migraine attack. This pain is very sharp and generally, happens on one side or both the sides of the head or behind the eyes. Some people also suffer from vomiting, nausea or visual disturbances. In some severe cases, a few individuals also suffer from increased sensitivity to sound or light or both. 

Wrapping Up

It is necessary for you to understand that if you are experiencing headaches when working out or after running then it is a cause for concern. As we all know that running releases endorphins and pumps more blood in the body as it is the best form of cardiovascular activity, getting a headache after running or headache after working out isn’t a sign that should be ignored as for some this could be a serious health issue. 

You can prep yourself up before running or working out by flexing your muscles and getting your body active before the actual workout. If you have a desk job and to stay fit you choose to run, then it is of utmost importance that you begin with a short workout before hitting the road. It is also important to keep yourself hydrated at most of the time and maintain the correct posture while you run. If you don’t maintain the correct posture you might strain your back or neck which could pressure on the head and begin a headache. 

Keeping all of the above-mentioned points in mind is necessary to have a good and fruitful run. Any change in the body happens because of something which isn’t working in its favour. Make sure you don’t ignore any of it and understand the symptoms and cause before it is too late! 

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