Headaches the Day After Physical Activity

Regular exercise provides many health benefits, including lower blood pressure, increased energy, reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers, and weight management. Sometimes, however, individuals may develop painful headaches the day after strenuous exercise.

Hydration is essential in preventing exercise-induced headaches. Credit: Obradovic/E+/GettyImages

You can take various preventive measures to reduce or eliminate exercise-induced headaches. If your headaches worsen over time or cause other health problems, you may need to consult a physician.

Read more: Can Exercise Make a Headache Go Away?

Headaches After Exercise

Headaches that occur the day after exercise are known as exertion headaches. Exercises including swimming, tennis, rowing, weight lifting and high-elevation hiking have been associated with causing headaches.

Exercise headaches are classified into two categories. Mayo Clinic explains that primary exercise headaches are characterized by throbbing pain on both sides of the head after intense exercise.

Secondary exercise headaches have the same symptoms as primary headaches, but are coupled with double vision, vomiting, loss of consciousness and neck rigidity and can last several days longer than primary headaches.

Dehydration Is a Common Cause

Overexertion and strenuous activity often cause the body to produce more sweat, causing dehydration. A common side effect of dehydration is the development of a headache, according to the National Headache Foundation.

High altitude and exertion are also factors in causing exercise headaches because they can create an oxygen deficit in the blood and muscle tissues, which disrupts the pH balance of the blood, such as an excess of lactic acid.

Read more: How Can I Tell When My Body Is Hydrated?

Avoiding Exercise-Induced Headaches

Hydration is key to avoiding primary exercise-induced headaches. Drink water while you exercise and especially after you exercise. Replenish your electrolyte stores after exercise by consuming sport drinks. Eat a meal of complex carbohydrates three to four hours before working out to give you adequate energy for your work.

Eat protein and complex carbohydrates after exercise to replenish energy stores and regulate blood sugar levels in your body. You should discuss treatments for your headaches with your physician. For the occasional onset of exercise headaches, you can take anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen or indomethacin before working out, advises the American Migraine Foundation.

Prevention and Solution

You may need to lessen the intensity or length of your workout regimen. And you might want to avoid high-impact exercise like running or kickboxing if you have a tendency to develop exertion headaches as these types of exercise increase stress on the head, neck and back.

When you work out, you should also slowly ease into higher-intensity workouts by warming up properly and slowing down at the end of your workout with a proper cool-down routine, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Underlying Medical Conditions

If your headaches last all day after working out or worsen over time or cause you to feel dizzy or sick to your stomach or inhibit you from performing daily tasks, it is important that you discuss this with your doctor.

You may be dealing with secondary headaches that can be caused by underlying medical problems, notes the American Migraine Foundation. Such conditions may reflect a more serious problem, and you should seek immediate medical care in the event that you have a headache of this nature.

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