Does Working Out Cause headaches?

Working out can sometimes cause headaches, but there are ways to prevent them. Find out what causes headaches after a workout and how to avoid them.


Do you find yourself suffering from persistent headaches after a good workout? As physical activity increases, so too does the risk of experiencing a headache. Exercise induced headaches are becoming more common, but the cause of your headache can vary depending on the type and intensity of exercise.

Given that exercise creates stress in your body, it is important to understand what types of activities put you at risk for a headache and how to safely adjust your workout routine. This guide explores the causes, symptoms and treatment strategies for exercise-induced headaches to help you assess and manage any pain you may be experiencing during exercise.

Causes of Headaches

Headaches can come from a variety of sources and have a variety of causes. While it is possible that working out can cause headaches, it is important to understand the other potential causes of headaches as well. In this article, we will explore the common causes of headaches and whether or not exercise can be a contributing factor.


Headaches often occur in response to emotional or physical stress and manifest as a dull ache that may be localized in the forehead, temples, or around the eyes. Long-term exercise habits may increase stress and emotional fatigue, leading to a headache. Adequate hydration during exercise is essential to prevent headaches due to poor hydration status. Additionally, muscle tension in the head and neck can contribute to headache severity. When planning an exercise routine designed for optimal health benefits, it is important to consider the impact that any single type of workout may have on your overall health. Exercising too hard or too often without proper rest between workouts can cause prolonged exhaustion which can manifest as chronic headaches or other symptoms of fatigue such as nausea or dizziness. Additionally, increased muscular tension due to repetitive or sustained muscle contractions can cause referred pain towards the head resulting in headache symptoms. Therefore it is important to avoid excessive amounts of vigorous physical activity without adequate rest intervals and ensure proper hydration throughout exercise routines.


Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause headaches in some people, especially when consumed in excess. Caffeine affects different people differently, and it tends to constrict blood vessels, leading to tension-type headaches. Consuming more than 500 mg per day of caffeine (about 5 cups of coffee) can result in headache symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to monitor your caffeine intake if you are prone to headaches. People who often experience tension headaches should also be aware that many over-the-counter medicines contain caffeine and limit their use accordingly. Alternatives with no or low caffeine are available.


Dehydration is a common contributor to headaches and can be caused by both a lack of drinking water as well as intense physical activity, such as running or working out. When dehydrated, the body produces an insufficient amount of oxytocin—an important hormone that is responsible for regulating water balance in the body. This lack of oxytocin can result in a decrease in blood circulation, causing narrowing of the arteries and constricting the flow of hormones from head to toe. This pressure can cause dehydration headaches which often appear as tension or pain around your temples or forehead. It is essential to maintain hydration through drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after a workout. Additionally, if while exercising you experience any extreme symptoms such as pale skin, dizziness or irregular heartbeat it’s best to stop and seek medical attention immediately.

Exercise-related headaches, also known as primary exertional headaches, can often affect athletes, bodybuilders, and other physically active people. These headaches may also occur in people who are not regularly active. Exercise-related headaches often cause a throbbing pain on both sides of the head or just one side of the head. In this article, we will discuss the causes and symptoms of exercise-related headaches and how to effectively treat them.

Intense Exercise

Intense exercise can cause a headache despite being one of the most often recommended activities for reducing the frequency, intensity, and duration of headaches. Exercise headaches might be especially common among people who suddenly increase the intensity or duration of their workouts. While exercise is generally viewed positively in regards to headache treatment and prevention, it is thought that exercising too intensely can actually lead to an exercise-related headache.

Exercise-related headaches usually begin after 10 to 20 minutes into physical activity and may become more intense during periods of greater exertion, such as running up a hill or picking up the pace when jogging. The areas of the head where someone with an exercise type headache may feel pain are usually localized on both sides of the head or neck but can spread through other areas as well. It is rare for exercise-related headaches to be accompanied by visual disturbances or other neurological symptoms.

If you start experiencing any kind of throbbing pain in your head while working out, take a break from your physical activity and rest until you feel better. You should also try some relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation to help manage the headache pain and reduce your overall stress levels. Once you’re feeling better, begin slowly getting back into physical activity but don’t attempt intense workouts until you’re sure it won’t cause another episode.


It’s possible to experience headaches related to exercise. These headaches, known as exertional or primary thunderclap headaches, are caused by over-exertion, particularly with activities like running or weight lifting. This type of headache usually comes on suddenly and may last for several minutes to an hour at most. It is usually unilateral (on one side of the head) and affects the forehead or temporal area. Symptoms often resolve within 48 hours after activity is stopped, but some people may have recurrent headaches following vigorous exercise that can linger for weeks.

People who experience this type of headache should be evaluated by their doctor to rule out more serious causes, such as subarachnoid hemorrhage and other vascular malformations. Furthermore, it is important to note that exercise-related headaches can sometimes mask underlying medical conditions, so if this type of headache persists despite modifying activity levels it is important to get checked out by a physician.

Chemical Changes

It is possible to experience a headache as a result of physical activity. Changes in the body’s chemical composition during exercise can lead to headaches and other physical discomfort. These symptoms can result from the release of stress hormones, increased circulation, inadequate amounts of oxygen in the body, or the depletion of certain minerals and salts through sweat. People who are sensitive to changes in their bodies may be more likely to be affected by such physical activities.

Other factors that can exacerbate exercise-induced headaches include dehydration or skipping meals before working out, improper form during certain exercises, high intensity exercises for prolonged periods of time, high altitude, as well as rapid changes in temperature or humidity. It is important for athletes and those participating in any kind of physical activity to understand their own limits and pay attention to warning signs from their bodies that could be connected with an increased risk of exercise-related headaches. Proper hydration and correct form when exercising are key components to avoiding many types of headaches due to activity levels.

Prevention and Treatment

Exercising can be a great way to stay healthy and it can improve your physical and mental well-being. However, it is possible to suffer from headaches after working out. In this section, we will discuss the prevention and treatments of headaches caused by exercising. This information can be helpful if you are looking to avoid headaches while working out.

Proper Warm-up

Strenuous physical activity can lead to headache in some people, and proper warm-up is essential to help prevent this. Warm-up should increase the heart rate slowly, allowing the muscles to adjust and become ready for the activity. Stretching before exercise can also reduce muscle tension, helping to prevent headaches. During exercise, try to stick with a steady pace that isn’t overly strenuous so that you don’t push yourself too hard. Hydrating well before and during an exercise session is important for keeping your body in balance and preventing headaches as well.

If you still experience a headache during or after exercise despite taking these precautions, it is important to stop exercising immediately and rest for a while. This can help soothe any tension build up in the head or neck muscles from the strain of exercising too intensely. Taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide additional relief from headache pain if needed.

Proper Hydration

Proper hydration of your body is an essential part of avoiding headaches or severe migraines when exercising. Keeping yourself hydrated helps regulate the body’s temperature and maintains a balance between the fluids and electrolytes within your system. Without proper hydration your body can become dehydrated, leading to tiredness, headaches, and a decrease in performance. To ensure proper hydration during exercise you should drink plenty of fluids before, while and after you exercise.

It’s important to make sure that any liquids that you drink when exercising contains electrolytes to help maintain the balance in your system. This can be done through adding sports drinks to rehydrate your body more quickly or simply drinking water with adding salt or other electrolyte powder mixes available in stores. Additionally, avoid caffeine containing beverages as they tend to make dehydration worse. Not only do they act as a diuretic, they can actually make you feel dehydrated faster than other non-caffeinated beverages.


Although lifestyle changes such as exercise and stress reduction can be beneficial in preventing and treating headaches, medication is sometimes needed for relief. Commonly used medications for frequent headaches may include over-the-counter analgesics, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, or prescription pain relief medications (opioids). Antidepressants may be prescribed in addition to the above if depression is a factor.

Other types of medications that may also be prescribed include triptans—a type of drug specifically designed to treat migraines—and anti-inflammatories (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs). Mayo Clinic also recommends acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga and other forms of relaxation therapy to help manage stress levels. These therapies are believed to have an impact on reducing tension headaches. Speak with your doctor before beginning any new treatment plan.


In conclusion, for most people, regular physical activity does not cause headaches or worsen existing head pain. However, some people who are unaccustomed to regular exercise might experience this symptom if they increase their intensity too quickly. Additionally, certain medical conditions and medications can increase your risk of developing exercise-related headache pain. If you think that exercising is affecting your headache symptoms, consult your physician to determine the underlying cause and the appropriate treatment plan. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the warning signs associated with a more serious condition such as stroke or bleeding in the brain so you can seek immediate medical attention if necessary.

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