How To Prevent Exercise Headaches & Workout Migraines With These 8 Hacks
If you've been avoiding your exercise routine because working up sweat also means working up a headache or migraine, you don't have to embrace a sedentary lifestyle to remain headache-free. In fact, there are actually some hacks to prevent a workout headache or migraine so you can continue to hit the gym, trail, or the bike path on the regular. According to University Health Services at the University of California, Berkeley, a number of factors can trigger migraines, especially during exertion, including: skipping meals, changes in sleep patterns, specific foods, and dehydration. If you do suffer from migraines, don't work out if you haven't eaten, are overtired, or are dehydrated.
A study published in the journal U.S. Pharmacist noted: "Implementation of proper warm-up and nonpharmacologic measures can help prevent exercise-induced migraines in patients who experience them." Additionally, the study recommended preventive options like magnesium, riboflavin, and NSAID pain relievers. What's more, even if you're not a migraineur, if you want to remain headache-free during and after your workout, it's important to know which factors are headache triggers for you. For example, when you work out during the summer months, you're likely going to get more dehydrated, which is why drinking a lot of water is the first line of defense against workout headaches and migraines.
If you're prone to workout headaches, you're not alone. In fact, it's a real thing that's referred to as primary exercise headache, according to the American Migraine Foundation. "Primary exercise headache is commonly described as bilateral (on both sides of head) and pulsating. Primary exercise headache generally lasts from five minutes to 48 hours," the American Migraine Foundation explained on its blog. "It may have similar features to migraine and must be distinguished from migraine triggered by exertion. Primary exercise headache is more likely to occur in hot weather or at high altitude, but can occur in any weather and at any altitude."
If you want to keep working out, but you don't want the headache that comes along with it, try these hacks to prevent a workout headache.
1. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration is one of the main causes of workout headaches. Think about the headache you have once you start moving around after a night of tequila shots; it's kind of like that. According to Medical News Today, dehydration can cause your brain to shrink and contract, which in turn causes that gnarly headache. Make sure to hydrate before, during, and after your workout to reduce your chances of getting a headache.
2. Choose The Right Foods
Low blood sugar is another reason you might get a post-workout headache. "An hour and a half before your workout, make sure to eat a solid meal or snack," Excedrin pain reliever recommended on its blog. "You may also want to eat a piece of fruit or a snack before or during exercise to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar. Choose wisely and avoid snacks that could trigger headaches."
3. Don't Overdo It
If you're new to exercise, starting off with five miles on the treadmill or an aggressive spinning class might be contributing to your workout headaches. The American Migraine Foundation recommended on its website that you start slowly. "Warming up before exercising and/or an exercise program that begins slowly and increases in intensity and length over a period of months may prevent primary exercise headache."
4. Don't Skip Your Warm Up & Cool Down
If you're running short on time you might be tempted to skip the warm up and cool down part of your workout routine. If you're already prone to primary exercise headaches, this is a no-no. "Carefully warming up and cooling down may feel unnecessary, but the sudden onset or cessation of exercise can trigger a headache in some people," Excedrin wrote on its blog. "Take five or 10 minutes to stretch or slowly warm up and cool down before and after your session."
5. Take A Pain Reliever Proactively
If you've tried everything else, and you're still getting primary exercise headaches, it's important to see your doctor before starting any kind of treatment plan to make sure you don't have secondary exercise headache, which comes on during exertion but it actually caused by an underlying condition. If it it determined that your headaches are primary, the American Migraine Foundation noted that your doctor may recommend you take an anti-inflammatory medication 30 to 60 minutes before your workout, and then reevaluate you in six months.
"If exercise brings on a headache for you, it is important to see your doctor so more dangerous issues such as subarachnoid hemorrhage and vessel dissection can be ruled out," the American Migraine Foundation explained. "The good news is that primary exercise headache tends to be self-limiting and stops occurring after three to six months."
6. Assess Environmental Factors
If you regularly get migraines or exertion headaches during your workout, the University of California at Berkeley recommended evaluating air quality, avoid exercising in high altitudes, during extreme temperatures, and in high humidity.
7. Keep A Workout Headache Diary
For your best chance of avoiding workout headaches and migraines, keep a diary for 30 days of when you're getting headaches, and add in factors like what kind of workout you did, how much water you drank, what you had to eat, and the temperature of the room (or the temp outside) where you worked out. If your headaches are indeed being caused by your exercise routine, a pattern should be begin to emerge after 30 days, and you'll be able to better identify your specific triggers so you can start to avoid them.
8. Knowledge Is Power
Overall, the more you know about what causes your exertion headaches or migraines, the more steps you can take to prevent them. Most migraineurs will do just about anything to avoid a migraine, and trying these hacks might help save your workout routine by decreasing your chances of developing a migraine triggered by exercise. In the case of any type workout headaches, the cliche an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is 100 percent true.