View Full Version : Exertion Headaches


HansMDude
Wed, July 28th, 2004, 03:13 PM
Today I got an exertion headache while I was doing barbell deadlifts. I got through 2 sets, but couldn't continue. I tried using less weight, but it didn't help. After awhile just bending down to grab the bar brought on the headache instantly. Anybody else get this?
So my entire leg day was just 2 sets of deadlifts. I'm going biking!!

chicanerous
Wed, July 28th, 2004, 03:43 PM
Were you drinking enough water and breathing properly during your lift?

HansMDude
Thu, July 29th, 2004, 06:06 AM
Were you drinking enough water and breathing properly during your lift?

Yes... I'm always well hydrated. And I believe I was breathing properly. Thinking about it, I believe it was a combination of factors...
-An extremely stressful day at work.
-I avoid going for my bike ride(my daily stress reliever & cardio workout) on leg day
-I wouldn't say I hate it, but "Leg Day" is my least favorite workout. I just don't get as motivated or enthusiastic about it as much as "Chest/Tricep" day or "Back/ Bicep" day.
-I might have increased the weight by too much, even though I seem to be able to do endless deadlift reps. (I stop at 25 reps)
It could have been one or more of these factors, I'll have to monitor the situation.

Rudd
Thu, July 29th, 2004, 06:17 AM
Tight traps and neck can contribute too or cuase headaches. A stresful day at work and deadlifts will both tighten up the neck muscles. Lots of streching and some massage and trigger pointing might be the cure. Also as the other poster pointed out concnetrate on your breathing and make sure your not holding your breath.

Reno_1ted
Thu, July 29th, 2004, 08:22 AM
When doing 25 reps of deadlifts, what is your goal ? What are you training to achieve ?

The headaches may very well be caused by a lack of oxygen. 25 reps is a lot for the body to cope with. Is it like a dizzy headache (if you know what i mean) or more a throbbing, or a sharp electric type pain.

My guess is that if you lower your reps, these headaches will not occur. While some training methods do adopt 1 high rep set, such as hollistic training, it is advised that you should build up to this and become an experianced lifter first. You may well be an experianced lifter, i dont know you, but thats my advice. Dropping your number of reps would mean you increase in weight, making strength gains your main byproduct of lifting.

Sock
Thu, July 29th, 2004, 08:34 AM
Wow, timely topic!

Last Thursday I experienced my first "exertion headache". I was pushing myself extremely hard on my third set of dips. When I finished, I suddenly got an excruciating sharp pain on the right side of my forehead and behind my eye. The pain was so bad that I needed to lay down on the gym floor. The severe pain lasted for about 10 minutes and then faded to a dull pain which lasted for a couple hours.

After this happened, I did an internet search and found some material on exertion headaches. The information described my symptoms exactly. Everything I read indicated that this was most likely not a serious thing, but that one should see their doctor if the problem persisted; 10-15% of people that experience these headaches are found to have an organic cause.

Fast forward to this Tuesday. I was back in the gym for the first time since my headache. I made it through three sets of deadlifts, carefully monitoring my breathing and trying not to "overdo it". I started to feel a slight headache. By my second set of lat pulldowns, I had to stop. The headache was back; not as severe as the first time, but severe enough that I couldn't continue to lift. I had a slight bit of dizziness and a minute or two of nausea.

So now I have an appointment with my MD Friday morning. I finally understand how John feels about not being able to workout. I'm extremely frustrated, particularly because I was going to start SwoleGenix this week, and now it's put on hold indefinitely.

Sock
Fri, July 30th, 2004, 10:35 AM
Went to the doc this morning. He believes that this is just a message from my body telling me to slow down. I'm not sure I'm happy with that answer, since my exertion level for the second headache was not high at all.

I do have an MRI/MRA scheduled for Monday morning, just to rule out anything more serious.

Husker1
Fri, July 30th, 2004, 11:29 AM
Went to the doc this morning. He believes that this is just a message from my body telling me to slow down. I'm not sure I'm happy with that answer, since my exertion level for the second headache was not high at all.

I do have an MRI/MRA scheduled for Monday morning, just to rule out anything more serious.

I had the same thing. They lasted for two months. I had an MRI and my doctor said all I had was a sinus infection. I think he's full of crap. I have had sinus infections before but this one has no symtoms at all except for the headaches. I am on antibiotics, and it has gotten better, but I think it's doing that on its own. Still not sure what it really is. I still get mild ones from time to time.

Sock
Fri, July 30th, 2004, 06:13 PM
I had the same thing. They lasted for two months. I had an MRI and my doctor said all I had was a sinus infection. I think he's full of crap. I have had sinus infections before but this one has no symtoms at all except for the headaches. I am on antibiotics, and it has gotten better, but I think it's doing that on its own. Still not sure what it really is. I still get mild ones from time to time.


Thanks for the info. Unfortunately, I've had more than my share of sinus problems in my days. Although this headache was drastically different than any sinus headache I've had, I have noticed a couple of "normal" sinus headches the past couple of days... so just maybe there is some correlation there.

A.VOID
Mon, August 2nd, 2004, 02:00 PM
I've done a lot of research on these exertion headaches, because I too suffer from them on occassion.

What I've discovered:

- Some people are more prone to them than others. Effects less than 10% of population.

- Cause is believed to be increased blood pressure impacting a specific nerve on the back of your head/ neck. The throbbing will continue for minutes to hours.

- The problem typically will disappear and reappear over time. After it occurs, it may be days -> weeks until exertion will not have the same impact.

- Commonly attributed to leg exercise (Squats, lunges, etc) due to the mass strain put on the body.

- There is prescription available to reduce effect. You take a dose prior to exercise.


Personally, I have had these come during lunges. I have had pain so bad I thought I would pass out. It typically takes me 2 weeks to completely recover, meaning I quit doing lunges but other exertion starts my head throbbing (I don't let it get as severe). I will no longer do lunges as part of my program because of this problem. I can do squats as long as I'm careful. Personally, I don't want to be put on medication just so I can do lunges, but if it gets worse with other lifting exercises than I may seek medical help.

Hope this helps!

Sock
Mon, August 2nd, 2004, 04:40 PM
That's great information, A.VOID. Thanks!

socks
Tue, August 3rd, 2004, 04:00 PM
I would like to chime in and say this happened to me when I first attempted to start weight training. I was looking to join a gym and I wanted to get an idea of a good workout so I went to ballys and kept getting constantly badgered about different memberships and such when all I really wanted was to get a good workout and see wether I liked it or not.
Well after asking them if I could have them give me a few sample workout they said "ok fine". This turned out to be a big mistake, the "trainer" was terrible and made me do way too much before I was ready for it(I was very out of shape at the time.) I ended up getting a terrible headache after he told me to do some leg press machine and didn't tell me about breathing properly, stretching or warming up.
For about 1.5 months anything that made my heart rate go up would trigger the headache. After those 1.5 months I started walking 30 minutes a day and eventually the headaches went away. I have now been doing weight training\cardio for 8 weeks and I have no more headaches.
Anyways now that my friend tought me alot about weight training (breathing, warming up, stretching and using good form)
I havent gotten a headache since I started, no injuries either!
I'm sure you'll be ok in a month or so, try doing some walking and see if that triggers your headache, if not do that until you can return to weight training.

Sock
Tue, August 3rd, 2004, 04:24 PM
I would like to chime in and say this happened to me when I first attempted to start weight training. I was looking to join a gym and I wanted to get an idea of a good workout so I went to ballys and kept getting constantly badgered about different memberships and such when all I really wanted was to get a good workout and see wether I liked it or not.
Well after asking them if I could have them give me a few sample workout they said "ok fine". This turned out to be a big mistake, the "trainer" was terrible and made me do way too much before I was ready for it(I was very out of shape at the time.) I ended up getting a terrible headache after he told me to do some leg press machine and didn't tell me about breathing properly, stretching or warming up.
For about 1.5 months anything that made my heart rate go up would trigger the headache. After those 1.5 months I started walking 30 minutes a day and eventually the headaches went away. I have now been doing weight training\cardio for 8 weeks and I have no more headaches.
Anyways now that my friend tought me alot about weight training (breathing, warming up, stretching and using good form)
I havent gotten a headache since I started, no injuries either!
I'm sure you'll be ok in a month or so, try doing some walking and see if that triggers your headache, if not do that until you can return to weight training.

Wow, 1 1/2 pairs in here ;). Welcome, socks.

I got the results back from my MRI/MRA (luckily my buddy is a radiologist at the hospital I went to, so he gave me the "advanced word"). Everything looks normal.

So, I'll wait to see what my doc has to say; hopefully I can start back (slowly) next week, which will have been 2.5 weeks or so since the headaches started.

Anubis2002
Wed, September 15th, 2004, 08:21 PM
Ugh. So a couple of days ago I'm working my lower abs. I'm not sure what the equipment is called, but basically you hold yourself up with your elbows and hands and such, and bring your knees to your chest. I was feeling on top of the world so I went to about 20. I might've forgotten to breathe towards the end, cause as soon as I was done my head was killing me! Not smart.

Yesterday I did a half hour of cardio on the elliptical at the usual intensity and everything seemed to be okay. I used the dip machine and the first set went alright. However, towards the end of the second set the exertion headache came back with a vengeance. I seriously just wanted to fall over and stay there. Unbelievable throbbing pain in the back of my head and neck. Bah!

So, today, I'm thinking, I'll avoid the dips and things like that, but just do a couple sets on the curl machine, and lighten the intensity a bit. If there were problems, I'd stop. I was fine until I counted to five and then it slammed me again. I couldn't even do any cardio my head was throbbing so bad.

I'm definitely frustrated. I think back to Monday when I first had problems and am angry at myself for not being smarter. My arms had it totally easy today doing the curls but it still killed my head. I guess I'll have to lay off the weights for a couple weeks and then see how I am after that. Hopefully I'll still be good to do cardio. Definitely annoyed though. I've been going to the gym six days a week since January, even when sick. It's definitely not fun to be unable to workout. Anyone have any suggestions on getting over this thing? Thanks.

Reno_1ted
Thu, September 16th, 2004, 06:14 AM
See a doctor, get a scan. :nod:

Malkavian
Thu, September 16th, 2004, 09:27 AM
I got one of these about two months ago (flat bench press, had a spotter and probably had more weight on than i has business lifting), the headache persisted through my entire workout and came back for the next two weeks on and off when i did anything that required alot of tensing in my back and neck. I'm not sure how long it actually lasted as I took a 2 month enforced break (lost gym access) and was fine when i got back at it

itzame
Tue, August 5th, 2008, 10:26 AM
I know this is an old thread, but I have recently started getting these headaches which have gradually been getting worse over the last two weeks. I have been training since Jan '08 and have made some good gains, lost two stone and have bulked 5lbs in muscle. Now I don't know if its a co-incidence but these headaches started the same time I started CEE supplements. I have seen my doctor who is organising an emergency MRI (this takes up to two weeks in UK) as I have a family history with head trauma (blood clots). Its day 5 and I'm still waiting.

I guess what I'm trying to find out is (following many hours in and out of forums) what causes these exertion headaches (if proved to be a primary cause and not a tumor), is it brought on by overdoing it? Is it just unlucky?

A lot of people have pointed out that drinking plenty of water is very important - check. Or to concentrate on your breathing - check. I have always worked hard on my form and breathing, I always drink plenty of water and take my training very seriously. I'm just gutted that I have been ordered to stay out of the gym... :(

I hate going backwards...

woodan
Tue, August 5th, 2008, 10:29 AM
I know this is an old thread, but I have recently started getting these headaches which have gradually been getting worse over the last two weeks. I have been training since Jan '08 and have made some good gains, lost two stone and have bulked 5lbs in muscle. Now I don't know if its a co-incidence but these headaches started the same time I started CEE supplements. I have seen my doctor who is organising an emergency MRI (this takes up to two weeks in UK) as I have a family history with head trauma (blood clots). Its day 5 and I'm still waiting.

I guess what I'm trying to find out is (following many hours in and out of forums) what causes these exertion headaches (if proved to be a primary cause and not a tumor), is it brought on by overdoing it? Is it just unlucky?

A lot of people have pointed out that drinking plenty of water is very important - check. Or to concentrate on your breathing - check. I have always worked hard on my form and breathing, I always drink plenty of water and take my training very seriously. I'm just gutted that I have been ordered to stay out of the gym... :(

I hate going backwards...

I got these headaches during winter when I'd come in from the cold and get straight into a workout without warming up. Since making sure I always take 5-10 minutes of light cardio before a workout I've not had one since.

jdb-44
Tue, August 5th, 2008, 10:55 AM
Once, again: I love this place. I was about to post a question about exertion headaches, decided to use the Search feature first, and came upon this thread.

While I don't know that we have any definitive answers, I think the knowledge sharing is helpful. I'll chime in with my experiences, in convenient bullet form:

- Started doing a Compound Exercises Only workout a couple of weeks ago.
- As in the past, combining this with any kind of cardio effort has caused headaches.
- I've had a slight headache the last couple of days; I normally don't get headaches (when not working out).
- If I ever try HIIT, I get headaches.
- I first noticed extreme exertion headaches when I had to wrestle in high school gym (years ago).
- I played the trumpet for years, involving at times a serious amount of back pressure. Sometimes got headaches from it.
- A year and a half ago, I went to the doctor for some recurring dizziness, wound up getting and MRI and an MRA, which showed some "non-specific" spots. The doctor said it was NOT indicative of anything serious, and the dizziness went away within a month or so.
- The only supplements I take are fish oil, a multi-vitamin, and Nitrean.

So...it's not really fair. I'd really like to work a bit harder in the gym, throwing down some occasional MISS and HIIT in addition to my resistance training. My muscles seem to be able to handle it, and my lungs, too...but this damn headache thing is holding me back.

Oh, well...good luck to all.

Jared

want2build
Mon, August 11th, 2008, 03:40 PM
Great site!!!
I have lost about 65 lbs and gained a lot of muscle following advice from this site. So it's not a surprise that I come back to it when I have another question/issue.
This time I want to post about "headaches".

I did get one of these exertion headaches last week.

I was doing flat bench press with relatively light weights, trying to maintain form and "I think" I may have held my breath. I have to say that I was a "bad" boy and did not warm-up. I felt a sudden rush of blood to my head and upper body, and with that got this severe shooting pain in the right-front side of my head. It was so sharp that for a moment I felt really dizzy and I just could not continue. I sat for a few minutes and the pain somewhat dissipated. I started doing the bench press again, but got the blood-rush and the headache back instantly. I called it a day after this, went home and took some Advils. That night while I was "active" in bed, I got the headache again, so I decided to go to the doctor next day to have it checked. Just to describe the pain - it is very severe and throbbing for a couple of minutes, but then spreads to the neck and back of the head area, where it becomes moderate for the next 10-15 minutes. After this there is some lingering stiffness in the neck area with some mild pain in the head, which stays on for a few hours to a day.

The doc ordered a CT scan to make sure it was not serious. I got the CT done on Monday and it came back normal on Friday. I was very relieved. In the meantime however, I continued going to the gym and did cardio (not HIIT). I did not get the headache with the cardio, although if I felt a sudden rush of blood, I slowed down and that really helped.
I am still getting the headache with the "activity in bed" though (which worries me :) ).

I got back to weights yesterday, but this time I did a long warmup and stretch. I took it slow and light, and I did not do flat bench presses. I did inclines. The headache started comming back while doing push-ups of all things, but then I stoppped as soon as I felt that rush of blood. This really helped, as it stopped the headache from "fully forming" and it went away very quickly.

So now I feel comfortable in the fact that -
1. I know it is nothing serious - the doctor said today after reading my reports that it was a "benign" exertion headaches;
2. I know when to stop/slow-down to avoid getting a headache (when I feel the sudden rush of blood);
3. Even when I do get the headache, the severity only lasts a few minutes, after which it becomes a generally mild headache/stiffness in the neck area, which is easily handled by a couple of Tylenols or Ibuprofens.

I plan to take it easy the next couple of weeks at the gym and slowly get back to the same intensity I was before I got the headache. I will go to the gym regularly because I do not want to erase my gains, however, I will listen to my body and stop when it tells me I am pushing it too much.

G

itzame
Thu, September 11th, 2008, 05:50 PM
want2build.. we are one and the same... I have had EXACTLY the same symptoms as yourself and today had this confirmed by my consultant at the hospital. Exertion Headache / Migraine. I cannot believe how relieved I am to know that it's not something serious and yet even more relieved to know that someone else has had the same and overcome (?) the same problems as myself. To lose the gains is so depressing it hurts, but now I have the drive to continue and get on with things, even if it means I have to do it somewhat differently to everyone else.

want2build
Fri, September 12th, 2008, 02:13 PM
itzame...looking good there.
My doc also had me undergo another test called MRA - Magnetic Resonance Angiogram of the neck and brain. The test was intended to find aneurysms or plaque in the arteries of the brain. Fortunately, the test results came out last week and they were "unremarkable". Hence the final diagnosis is - "Benign exertion headaches".
In the meantime, my headaches are completely gone. In my case it took about 3 weeks for them to completely disappear. They went away on their own, and not something I did or did not do. Yes, I was a little careful while working out, but nothing else really. I did not take any medication except a couple Tylenols when needed.

Now I am back to my regular workout schedule and feel better prepared to handle this going forward.

Good luck.

G

adamh707
Sat, September 13th, 2008, 04:00 AM
Asually, in my experience these headaches are not caused soley by not breathing properly or being hydrated. Rather straining to much. Go to the physio, explain your symptoms and i would guess that he would aim directly at you neck's pressure points. I had them once, went to the physio, gone in a few days, never had them again.

PAF
Thu, September 25th, 2008, 06:58 AM
Just got one yestarday doing squats. I was pretty worried that I may have done serious damage, so good to see that some of you guys have completely recovered after a few weeks.

I was only squatting 100kg, intending to do one set of 10-15. I typically lift 3-5 sets of 5reps, but this time I wanted a longer set to work on my poor endurance. I stopped after 8 because of the headache - a pain at the back left of my head.

There was someone standing to the left of the rack, spotting a benchpresser, so I thought I may have subconsciously not placed the bar on my back correctly. At first, because of this, I thought I may have decompressed a verterbrae, pinching a nerve causing the headaches. But I also may not have been breathing correctly on those last few reps - valsalva manouver to the top. Was afraid I may have popped a blood vessel in my head!

Hope it's not permanent. Still get it this morning after doing anything that raises HR slightly. Would hate to be buggered everytime I do squats.
Also have a half-marathon in 2 weeks and now I have to stop even cardio :/

adamh707
Thu, September 25th, 2008, 09:40 PM
Heat pack, rest and light neck stretches is my remedy!

RTE
Thu, September 25th, 2008, 11:49 PM
Heat pack, rest and light neck stretches is my remedy!

Wow, I have lived my life so far and I can't remember having a headache. Now there are exertion headaches in fair numbers. And some doctors are calling for MRIs. I suppose I am lucky.

I did find these 9 ways to prevent them on the net:

1. Make sure you're warming up before starting and cooling down afterwards. Try some easier exercise first, or try a few minutes of stretching. Not only can this eliminate exercise induced headache, it also helps avoid excessive muscle soreness, that could lead to a headache later on.
2. Start slowly. If you're just starting an exercise program, don't start with something intensive. You may want to try something as simple as a daily brisk walk, and then move on once your body is used to it. You are wise to talk to your doctor before starting a new program, especially if you're over 40 or you have an injury or heart trouble.
3. Stay well hydrated. That means, drink water!
4. Avoid exercise that involved prolonged stooping.
5. If you've followed the above suggestions and you're still getting headaches, try taking a couple of NSAIDs before you start, such as ibuprofen (Advil).
6. Try gentler exercise. Lower impact, more stretching. If tennis is causing a problem, try swimming instead, for example.
7. Try taking a drug that constricts blood vessels, such as Ergomar, before you begin (suggestion from Valerie South, RN, of the World Headache Alliance)
8. If dropping blood sugar levels is a problem try taking a glucose tablet before you begin, and then have a starchy snack or better yet a full meal soon after you finish (within an hour) (from Sue Dyson in Migraines a Natural Approach)
9. Taper off slowly: If you're already involved in intense exercise, don't stop suddenly. If you know you're going to be taking some time off, slow down the exercise, don't quit cold turkey. (Check this article from the Journal of Exercise Physiology for this "reverse" exercise induced headache)
10. Commonly used medication: The International Headache Society writes that Indocin (an anti-inflammatory medication) is commonly used to treat this type of headache (primary exertional headache or primary cough headache). Some patients have also used ergotamine tartrate. Caution should be exercised when using these medications - talk to your doctor first.

If you follow these suggestions, and get regular exercise, you should find that the headaches become less and less, and the benefits become greater and greater. Avoiding exercise because of exercise induced headache is a downward spiral. It's time to go onward and upward!

If you haven't yet, check out these suggestions for exercise. A lot of the suggestions on this site come from Dr Mauskop's excellent book, What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Migraines.

PAF
Sat, September 27th, 2008, 09:54 AM
The day after I got the headache from squats, I felt like I was getting a fever. Slight temperature raise, nothing to be concerned about, but I felt pretty bad, dizzy if I moved my head fast, and felt cold. Two longs nights of sleep later, sweating buckets (I swear there was a pool of water in my chest cavity at one point last night), and I feel the fever has gone. Yay.

When I got up this morning I felt right as rain, fever gone. However upon moving relatively fast down the stairs, getting the BP and HR up, boom I'm out for the day. Side-splitting headache resonating from the left side of my neck. Feels awful and probably won't go away until I pop some pills or go to sleep. I really feel I've somehow pinched a nerve back there, either from a compressed vertebrae or a trigger point.

dweberd6
Sun, October 12th, 2008, 08:18 PM
Hey guys, I know a lot of people here are suffering from exertion headaches. I had them a couple weeks ago; got them while doing dips and just pushing myself. I went to workout again today and was able to do everything fine. So this is what happened. After the day I got an exertion headache (pain in back of head which lasted about 5-10 mins.) the next day i went back just to make sure it didn't possible leave. sure enough it came back worse. So i went to forums and it said take a break. i took a break for a week. you may need longer, it depends. but during that week i still lifted A LITTLE with just dumbells in my room and what is different is that i had to focus on my breathing 100% and once i felt like it was raising my blood pressure cause i was lifting too hard for my head to handle, i stopped and focused on my breathing. So what I would recommend all of you to do and try is to...
1. when you get a headache notice somethings wrong. DO see a doctor and make sure it is nothing seriouse.
2. take a break, i know it sucks but take a break your body needs it.
3. always and i mean always focus on your breathing and don't over exert yourself.
you will be able to feel when you are getting back to normal.
4. right now i premedicate by taking 2 aleve's before working out and still closely watch my breathing and take it easy to an extent.
5. warm up for a long time before you start to exert yourself, run, stretch, use smaller weights at first.
6. be well hydrated the whole time working out

but do not keep working out and just being tough and dealing with the pain, there is a reason why the body releases the feeling of pain, it's because somethings wrong. also taking creatine or other similar products can increase your blood pressure or make ur heart work harder and that will make the blook rush to ur head even quicker and worse, which is a exertion headache.

Hope this helps. p.s. i am not a doctor, i'm just a lifter. go see your doctor, take it easy and take naproxen (aleve or ibuprofin) before working out; well at least that helps me. all the luck with you.