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Severe Headache After Exercise

author image Leigh Good
Leigh Good has been writing for magazines and newspapers for more than 10 years. Her work has been published in numerous print and online publications. Good has a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Georgia State University.
Severe Headache After Exercise
If you get headaches after exercising, talk to your doctor to rule out a serious condition. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

If you experience severe headaches after exercising, you may consider varying your workout routine to prevent them. Post-exercise headaches are common and can be caused by a variety of factors. If you frequently get headaches after you exercise, see your doctor to make sure the cause is not serious, especially if you also experience vomiting or double vision.


Post-workout headaches are either primary or secondary, according to MayoClinic.com. Primary headaches are usually harmless and easily prevented using medication. Secondary headaches are often more serious. A secondary headache following exercise may be a sign of internal bleeding or a tumor in the brain.

Primary headaches are throbbing headaches that occur on both sides of the head after strenuous exercise. Secondary headaches feel the same as primary headaches, but are often accompanied by vomiting, a loss of consciousness, double vision or neck stiffness.


Exercise headaches develop most often after strenuous exercises such as running, rowing, tennis, swimming and lifting weights, according to MayoClinic.com. Doctors don't know exactly why post-exercise headaches occur, but some doctors believe that strenuous exercise causes the blood vessels in your head to dilate, leading to headaches. You may be more likely to experience exercise headaches if you workout in hot weather or at a high altitude or if you have a family history of migraines.

Secondary exercise headaches are caused by serious medical conditions such as internal bleeding, tumors or restricted blood flow.


If you suffer from primary exercise headaches and your doctor does not find a more serious underlying condition, he will probably treat your headaches with prescription medication. Doctors commonly prescribe anti-inflammatory and blood-pressure-lowering medications to treat exercise headaches. Typically you will take these medications an hour or two before performing strenuous exercise. You can also try taking aspirin before working out as a preventative measure.


Make sure you warm-up properly before working out to reduce your risk of getting an exercise headache. Avoid working out outside when the weather is hot and humid. Stay hydrated before, during and after you workout to keep headaches at bay. Drink an electrolyte-enhanced sports drink or eat a banana before you exercise to prevent becoming dehydrated and make sure your body has ample electrolytes.

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