Can a Workout Help a Headache?

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from occasional headaches, you might be wondering if a workout can help. The answer is yes! Exercise can help relieve tension headaches and migraines by releasing endorphins, which are natural painkillers. So next time you’re feeling a headache coming on, try going for a walk, run, or bike ride.


Headaches can occur for a variety of reasons and can range from mild, short-lived discomfort to severe pain that may last for days. Acute headaches can be treated with medication, although many people choose to look for less intrusive approaches such as exercise. Exercise and physical activity have frequently been seen as beneficial for relieving certain types of headaches, and there is scientific evidence to back this up. This guide will explore how a workout may help a headache and what types of exercise are most beneficial.

What Causes Headaches?

Headaches can be caused by a variety of factors, including physical stress, emotional stress, environmental factors, and even genetics. Identifying and understanding the cause of your headache can be the key to relieving it with a proper workout routine or other treatments. In this article, we will explore the various potential causes of headaches and how a workout may help.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and can be caused by a variety of factors. These include muscle tension, stress, poor posture, fatigue and certain types of environmental factors. Tension headaches feel like a dull pressure on both sides of the head, often accompanied by a tightness or squeezing sensation in the neck and shoulder muscles. Common symptoms may also include anxiety, difficulty concentrating and irritability.

Although there is no definitive answer as to how exercise can help with headaches, many people have reported that exercising regularly gives them relief from their pain. Regular aerobic activity increases endorphins in the body, which have been attributed to reducing tension in muscles throughout the body. Lowering muscle tension can help reduce pain levels associated with tension headaches. People who suffer from tension headaches may also benefit from forming healthier habits such as proper sleeping patterns, regular stress management exercises or developed skills for coping with daily stressors. Additionally, yoga or tai chi can provide gentle stretching which has also been known to help individuals relieve their headache pain.


Migraines are a type of recurring headache that are usually more severe than other types of headaches. They’re usually characterized by a persistent and throbbing pain, which can often be felt on one side of the head. Some migraine sufferers also experience additional symptoms such as nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, fatigue, and visual disturbances. That said, some people may experience a milder version of migraine without the extra symptoms.

Migraines can occur once or twice per month or as often as several times a week. It’s common to have an attack that is triggered by stress or other factors like certain foods or even changes in weather patterns. While it is not necessarily clear what causes migraines, researchers believe they’re related to imbalances in the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, genes inherited from your parents, or hormonal fluctuations in women due to menstrual cycles.

Fortunately, there are many treatments available for migraines including lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet; medications for symptom relief; and numerous other alternative therapies like acupuncture and relaxation techniques like yoga and music therapy. Doing regular low-intensity physical activity has been found to have positive effects on reducing migraine pain levels for many sufferers so it is important to seek out ways that you can keep active regularly if this applies to you.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are one of the most severe types of headaches. They tend to occur in groups or clusters, and cause excruciating pain on one side of the head. The area around the eye often becomes red and swollen, along with a runny nose or watery eyes on the same side. These attacks most often occur between one and eight times a day during a period of several weeks.

These headaches have been termed “suicide headaches” due to their extreme intensity and often debilitating effects. Cluster headache attacks can last from fifteen minutes to several hours, and occur in predictable patterns that may last from weeks to months at a time. They are typically defined as either episodic or chronic:
-Episodic cluster headache is defined when sufferers experience Cluster Headache Attacks separated by pain-free periods lasting between weeks and months at a time;
-Chronic cluster headache is defined when sufferers experience frequent attacks, lasting hours at a time, for longer than a year without remission periods;

Because of their severe intensity and how long they last, cluster headaches are generally treated differently than other types of headaches. Trigger avoidance therapies such as quitting smoking or avoiding alcohol may help reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. In addition, medications such as triptans (to help relieve pain), corticosteroids (to reduce inflammation), oxygen therapy (to provide relief) can be used on their own or in combination with other treatments to give cluster headache sufferers some degree of control over their symptoms. More research is needed into alternative therapies such as acupuncture, exercise programs (including yoga), massage therapy, biofeedback training; relaxation techniques specifically designed to target different types of migraine symptoms; hypnosis therapies aimed at teaching skills for controlling stress levels; and psychotherapies aimed at relieving tension for those suffering from chronic cases or anxiety/anger problems associated with attacks .

How Can Exercise Help?

Exercising can be a great way to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. Regular physical activity can help reduce the risk of headaches and can even help relieve current headache pain. In this article, we will discuss the ways in which exercising can help manage headaches and explain why it is important to incorporate physical activity into your routine if you suffer from headaches.

Improves sleep

Regular exercise can help improve the quality and duration of your sleep, and in turn, reduce the risk of headaches due to lack of rest. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night for best health outcomes. Exercise helps us fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. It also lowers stress, relaxes muscles and reduces levels of anxiety.

Physical activity releases hormones called endorphins that act as natural painkillers, relieving pain from recurrent or chronic tension headaches. Additionally, regular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce both the number and severity of migraine attacks in some people by 50%. Regular exercise also helps to keep your body’s rhythms regulated, which can help prevent both tension headaches and migraines caused by imbalances such as disrupted sleep or change in eating habits.

Releases endorphins

Exercise can be an effective way to relieve or reduce the intensity of a headache. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins — short-lived chemical neurotransmitters — which act as natural analgesics, helping to relieve pain. Endorphins also have a profoundly positive effect on mood and may help ease feelings of stress associated with the onset of a headache. Furthermore, when endorphins are released regularly (through regular exercise) they have significant overall health benefits due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that physical activity offers a degree of protection against developing migraine headaches in adults, particularly when the activity includes aerobic elements such as running or biking.

Improves blood flow

Exercise is known to provide many health benefits and one of those benefits is improved blood circulation. Regular physical activity helps to pump more oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, including the head. This increase in blood flow can assist in reducing pain associated with headaches as well as help prevent future headaches from occurring. Furthermore, cardiovascular exercise releases endorphins which are hormones that can promote overall well-being and help reduce stress levels. Reducing stress may also be beneficial in diminishing headache intensity and frequency.

Exercise is an effective way to reduce the effects of a headache and can often help to provide relief from the pain. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches, as well as improve overall functionality. In this section, we will discuss the different types of exercises that can be beneficial for headache relief.


Yoga is a low-impact type of exercise that combines breathing techniques with stretching and relaxation. Practicing yoga has been shown to reduce tension headaches, primarily by relaxing your body and increasing the endorphins released from your brain. Poses that focus on stretching your neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles can provide relief from headache pain. Additionally, teaching you to become more aware of how you hold your body can help prevent further tension headaches. It’s best to find a qualified instructor who can create a customized routine for relieving your headache symptoms. In general, yoga classes focus on poses that require you to gently stretch and relax different parts of the body while practicing mindful breathing. This can help release muscle tension in the neck and shoulders while calming your mind and reducing stress levels overall.


Walking is an easy, safe, and efficient way to relieve headaches. Studies have shown that it can help reduce headache frequency and intensity, as well as decrease the use of medication for headache relief. Walking can also be helpful for relieving stress and improving overall wellbeing.

Start with a moderate walk for about 20 minutes; adjust your pace and intensity depending on how you feel. As you become more comfortable with this exercise, you can try increasing the duration or adding some walking at a steeper incline for a greater cardiovascular effect. Always listen to your body and make sure to start slowly if you’re just beginning an exercise routine.

In addition to walking, there are many other exercises that can help alleviate headaches, including stretching and strength training. It is important that anyone who suffers from frequent headaches consult their doctor before engaging in any type of physical activity.


Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for anyone experiencing tension headaches or otherwise looking to improve posture and ease muscle tightness. In the water, gravity’s influence is reduced, providing a feeling of weightlessness that helps relax muscles. Swimming can also reduce the stress that contributes to tension headaches and help reduce the symptoms. Additionally, swimming may provide other physical and mental benefits: increased energy, improved concentration, better sleep and a stronger immune system. Because it is low-impact, people with other forms of headache or a history of neck or shoulder injuries may find this activity particularly beneficial.


After exploring the physical and psychological benefits of exercise, it is clear that a workout can help to reduce the discomfort associated with headaches. Regular exercise can improve blood flow to the brain, reduce emotional tension and stress, improve sleep quality and help to regulate hormones. By engaging in regular physical activity, individuals can reduce their headache symptoms and become less dependent on pain-relieving medications. It is recommended that individuals exercise for 30 minutes at least five days a week in order to increase their overall physical health and combat headaches. However, if symptoms persist it is best to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional.

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