Headaches that occur after running or other types of strenuous activities are generally known as jogger’s headache, runner’s headache and weightlifter’s headache, as well as the more official-sounding terms like exertional headache or exercise headache. Before we get into the information on exertional headaches there are a few specific causes of headaches after running that can be due to a couple of factors that may be more manageable and preventable.
SOAK UP THE SUN
Sunlight can be a trigger of headaches for some people, especially when running. Sun glare and bright light may trigger headaches and the sun may be a trigger for some people’s migraines. Headache can also be a symptom of heat exhaustion and is affected by drops in barometric pressure and high humidity. Preventing this headache can involve using sunglasses and a hat with a brim and opting to run in the shade when possible. Cooling towels can also help. Certain people may even need to run indoors if you get triggered by the sun. Recovering can include drinking water, getting inside and finding a dark room. Seek medical attention in the case of heat emergencies. And, traveling for a race to run at higher elevations that you are not used to can cause headaches as well.
Headaches can indicate that a person is dehydrated, so if you get these headaches, you need to be sure that you are drinking enough before, during and after your runs. Take water with you if needed, but mind that you do not typically need to be one of those people that carries the full gallon jug to work and then the gym. You don’t typically need to bring water when the run is under an hour or it is cooler out, but your mileage may vary. Longer runs mean you want to try to drink 3 to 6 ounces of water every 30 minutes of the run. You should be needing to urinate every couple of hours and the urine should look like diluted lemonade. Dark yellow means you need more water. Running in the early morning might mean that you need to monitor your hydration the night before and drink 8 oz. in the morning before you take off. Making note of your time, pace, air temperature, humidity and how much you consume can help you plan out what you need when it comes to race time.
Low blood sugar can be a cause of headaches after running. Hypoglycemia can occur if you do not eat enough before a run. Make sure that you have a balanced meal within a couple hours of exercising or if you are prone to low blood sugar before you go on the run. Fasted cardio is extremely popular for weight-loss, but the science does not quite back it up. You may need to have a light meal with a combination of simple and complex carbs before your run if you go early in the morning. If you have a headache after running, and munching some simple carbohydrates makes the headache go away, you know that it is nutrition-related.
RUN LIKE HELL
Is your posture awful at your desk or on your runs? Small mistakes like having your head slightly in front of your torso can lead to headaches from increased muscle tension. Imbalance in your alignment while pounding your body with the repetitive stresses of running could be a cause of your headaches. Your posture when you are working or at home and even the time looking down at your phone can contribute to these headaches as well. Taking postural restoration breaks while working and checking the ergonomics of your workstation can be extremely beneficial. And, when is the last time you had a massage?
And finally, we come to the exertional headache or runner’s headache. It is like the headache that you get from coughing too much as researchers think it is produced from distention of arteries or veins because of physical exercise. Exercise headaches are usually a throbbing pain on both sides of the head and last from 5 minutes up to 48 hours. They tend to affect women more often than men and usually starts between 32 and 43 years of age. People who have exertional headaches also have a much higher tendency to get migraines as well.
Due to the idea that the pain is related to the dilation of blood vessels, some people can prevent their exertional headaches by slowly warming up before running. Incidentally, the improper and uncontrolled dilation is blood vessels is theorized to be related to the cause of migraines as well. Gradually warming up over a 10 to 15-minute period can give the body an opportunity to adjust to the exertion to be placed upon it. The speed and duration of a run can affect exertional headaches, so a runner may need to consider these options. Occasionally, people may need to look for alternative forms of exercise that do not involve as much jarring of the head.
WHEN TO SEEK HELP?
There are certain red flags for headaches that indicate you need to be seen by your primary care provider or a specialist in headaches like a medical neurologist or a chiropractic neurologist. Also, anyone who has headaches that adversely impacts their daily life or has tried multiple remedies should seek help from one of these professionals.
HOW TO TREAT HEADACHES AFTER RUNNING?
The biggest step in treating a headache is determining the reason for getting headaches after running. Some over the counter (OTC) medications, like naproxen, may be appropriate to use and some may need a prescription. Seeing that up to 90% of exertion headaches can be related to migraine headaches, treating for migraines can be effective. Chiropractic adjustments, corrective exercises, manual therapy (including Graston Technique) and massage therapy are all treatments that can be effective at treating headaches. There are nutritional components that can affect headaches and certain supplements like Butterbur that are researched and show an impact on headaches.