Is Working Out Bad for Your Headache?

If you suffer from migraines or headaches, you might be wondering if working out is bad for your condition. While there is no definitive answer, there are some things to consider before hitting the gym.


Exercise can be an effective way to reduce headaches, but it’s not a one size fits all solution. While regular exercise is generally beneficial for overall health, there are some cases where it could make existing headaches worse. It’s important to recognize the signs and understand when exercising might exacerbate your headache discomfort.

When it comes to managing your headache issue through exercise, understanding the types of headaches you experience and the triggers that cause them is key. Furthermore, being aware of the intensity of your workout and specific exercises you do can help adjust your exercising routine accordingly. Depending on the nature of your headache problem, an appropriate exercise regime may help reduce or even eliminate headaches completely in some cases. However, there are certain cases where physical activity can cause or worsen existing headaches so be sure to take precautions before starting any new workout regime.

Types of Headaches

Headaches can be classified into two main types: primary and secondary. Primary headaches are more common, and can be classified as migraine, tension, cluster, or sinus headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying health condition and can include headache conditions like medication overuse headaches or post-traumatic headaches. Knowing the type of headache you have can help you decide if working out could be beneficial or not for managing your symptoms.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches, also called stress headaches, are the most common type of headache and one that many people experience at some point in their lives. They are usually characterized by a feeling of tightness or pressure on both sides of the head and along the back of the neck. Symptoms may include: pain that is a dull, constant ache; tenderness in certain areas such as the scalp, neck, shoulders or jaw; pressure-like sensations; fatigue or sleep disturbances. In some cases, a person can feel as if their head is “in a vice” or squeezing sensation.

Tension headaches can last from less than one hour to a few days and they can vary in intensity from medium to severe. Although the cause of these headaches is not completely known, possible causes include stress and tension due to difficult life circumstances such as family issues, financial problems and job stresses; inadequate sleep; poor posture; dehydration; eye strain; depression or anxiety; muscle tension due to physical activity such as working out too intensely or for extended periods of time without resting between sets; chemical imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.

It is important to be aware of any triggers you may have with regards to tension headaches so you can identify them early on and avoid them if possible by making lifestyle changes. It is also important to get enough restful sleep each night and drink plenty of water throughout the day in order to reduce muscle tension caused by dehydration. Additionally, avoiding strenuous activity for extended periods of time may help reduce symptoms associated with this type of headache. Other treatments for tension headaches may include relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, stretching exercises and massage therapy as well as over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil) acetaminophen (Tylenol).


Migraines are usually more severe than other types of headaches, but they can still be managed. Migraine pain is usually described as a throbbing or pulsing sensation, often on one side of the head. Some sufferers experience visual disturbances along with the headache, such as flashes of light or blind spots.

Migraine headaches can be triggered by a variety of factors, including physical exertion, stress, hormones and certain foods and beverages. Many medications are available to help manage migraine pain and reduce their frequency. It’s important to talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you if you suffer from migraines.

Exercise may not be an ideal choice for some people who suffer from migraine headaches, as physical activity can act as a trigger and make the headache worse. But this doesn’t mean that all forms of exercise should be avoided completely. Gentle forms of exercise that don’t put too much strain on the body such as yoga or walking may provide some relief from migraine symptoms without exacerbating them further; however it’s always wise to check with your doctor first before beginning any new exercise regimen if you suffer from migraines or any other long-term health condition.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches, or histamine headaches, are one of the most painful and least common types of headache. They usually occur in clusters of two to eight severe headaches that can last between 15 minutes and three hours per attack. Often called “suicide headaches” because of their extreme intensity and length, cluster headaches occur in groups that can last from several days to several months at a time. The cause is unknown but may be related to changes in histamine levels, since antihistamines are often used for relief of cluster headache symptoms.

These attacks come in a pattern, with periods when symptoms flare up periodically followed by periods of remission when no symptoms appear. During the active period, attacks tend to recur at the same time each day and you may get more than one attack each day. The pain is very intense and generally located around the eye or temple area on one side but can radiate to other areas such as your forehead, neck or jaw. Other symptoms can include facial sweating; runny nose; watery eyes; swollen eyelids; muscle tension around the temples or neck; droopy eyelid on influenced side; restlessness; sense of agitation; nausea and light sensitivity. Treatment usually includes medications taken during an active headache phase such as triptans combined with medication taken daily to help prevent future attacks from occurring such as calcium channel blockers or corticosteroids. Lifestyle changes designed to reduce stress, limit alcohol consumption and getting adequate sleep may help reduce your risk for future episodes.

Causes of Headaches

Headaches can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress and dehydration. However, physical exercise can also be a contributor to headache pain. Many people experience headaches after intense or prolonged exercise, and this can be caused by a number of factors. Let’s take a look at the different causes of headaches from physical activity.


Many people experience headaches due to stress, which can be caused by both short-term and long-term circumstances. Stress headaches are a type of tension headache and are most commonly experienced on both sides of the head – often at the temples, behind the eyes or at the base of your neck. Intense emotions such as fear, frustration, anger, concern can all cause stress headaches. Too much work without adequate rest can also be a contributing factor as well as sleeplessness or oversleeping.

Physical exertion can bring on stress headaches in some cases; however, regular exercise that is part of a well-balanced lifestyle has been known to help relieve them. Exercise releases endorphins which work to reduce pain and relax muscle tension in your neck and scalp. When performing high intensity exercising like weight lifting however, it is important to be aware that holding your breath while lifting causes tension in the body – this could increase your risk for developing a headache during this type of exercise.


In some cases, changes to one’s diet may influence the frequency of headaches. Common foods that are known to trigger headache onset include processed foods and artificially sweetened beverages. Alcohol consumption can also result in a throbbing headache, especially if consumed on an empty stomach. Eating regularly-timed meals and snacks throughout the day is important as hunger can unnecessarily stress the body which can cause headaches.

Another common cause of tension-type headaches has to do with low blood sugar levels. Eating regular meals and snacks helps ensure balanced glucose levels in the blood, reducing the chances of getting a headache. Additionally, dehydration is another common trigger for migraines and tension-type headaches—starting off every morning with a full glass of water can help maintain good hydration throughout the day. People may also benefit from drinking herbal tea or sipping on water throughout their workout, especially if exercising in hot conditions.

Lack of Sleep

The causes of headaches vary, and a lack of sleep can be one of the most common reasons for a headache. Not getting enough quality rest is one of the top lifestyle factors impacting headaches. When we lack sleep, our body’s natural balance is disrupted and can cause headaches.

Without a good night’s sleep, hormones that control mood, appetite, stress levels and even normal functions like digestion and cell regeneration begin to unravel. Our muscle tension increases and other symptoms that can trigger a headache can be aggravated when we don’t get enough zzz’s.

There are several ways that inadequate or interrupted sleep contributes to headache pain:

-Insufficient amounts of restorative deep wave sleep (SWS) lead to increased levels of cortisol—the stress hormone—which can have an adverse effect on serotonin levels; disruption in serotonin (a neurotransmitter linked to pain sensation) is associated with migraine attacks
-Sleep deprivation affects the neurotransmitters responsible for alertness and concentration, triggering irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating — all major headache triggers.
-Not getting regular quality rest makes us more prone to developing chronic tension-type head pain because our bodies remain in a near constant state of stress
-Lack of adequate rest results in increased likelihood for other common headache triggers such as dehydration or poor nutrition

For those who suffer from chronic headaches due to lack of sleep or exhausted circadian rhythms, behavior modifications such as healthy habits like regular bedtime routines are often recommended. Developing healthier sleeping patterns through consistent bedtimes and establishing electronic-free zones like the bedroom have been found to increase episode frequency in most cases by reducing stress hormones. Exercise is also believed to help improve both physical fitness as well as increasing quality night time sleep by helping keep cortisol levels normal throughout the day – so working out does not necessarily contribute to headaches when done responsibly with proper post workout food intake and hydration!


Dehydration is a common cause of headache and can be a result of either not drinking enough water or losing too much fluid (such as through sweating during exercise). Dehydration can cause an imbalance in electrolytes, which can lead to headaches. It is important to ensure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day and replenishing your body after any intense physical activity with an electrolyte-rich drink or sports beverage.


Exercise is an important part of your overall health, but it can be detrimental if done too intensely or frequently. Studies vary on how exercise is related to headaches. While moderate physical activity is generally accepted as helpful in reducing headache frequency and intensity, it is possible for vigorous exercise to trigger a headache – especially in those already prone to headaches.

Common factors linked to exercise-induced headaches include dehydration and hunger, both of which can be prevented with proper planning. Pre-exercise hydration, nutrition and stretching will help reduce the risk of physical activity causing a headache. Additionally, avoiding overly strenuous activities such as running uphill or heavy weightlifting may lower your risk of experiencing exercise induced headaches.

It’s important to remember that if you experience discomfort during any type of physical activity it’s best to stop until the feeling subsides or your doctor has cleared you to resume activities. For some people who suffer from migraine headaches, aerobic exercise has been recommended as a preventive measure; however all persons should discuss their workout plan with their doctor before beginning any regimen.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is a great way to improve your physical health, but did you know it can also have positive benefits for your mental wellbeing? Working out releases endorphins that can help boost your mood and reduce stress, which can have a positive effect on headaches. Exercise can also release natural painkillers in the body, which can help provide some relief. Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits of exercise when it comes to headaches.

Stress Relief

Regular exercise is a key component of stress relief. When you engage in physical activity, your body releases endorphins that can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Studies have also shown that people who regularly exercise report feeling more energetic throughout the day and better able to cope with major life changes or work-related stressors. Additionally, exercising can be a great way to distract yourself from your headaches and give yourself an outlet for some much-needed relaxation time. There have even been studies to show that regular aerobic exercise like running can reduce headache symptoms in those with migraine. Whether your frequent headaches are caused by stress or another underlying issue, exercising can become an essential part of your natural headache regimen while also providing additional benefits such as improved mood, physical fitness and well-being.

Improved Sleep

Many people notice an improvement in their sleep patterns when they begin a regular exercise routine. Exercise helps to regulate the body’s internal clock, helping to establish natural sleep and wake cycles. This is particularly true for those suffering from conditions such as insomnia or chronic headaches, as well as those who experience occasional muscle tension or soreness. Along with improved sleep quality, regular physical activity can also help individuals have more restful nights by reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.

Exercise works on a variety of levels to promote an overall sense of mental and physical well-being. When people exercise regularly and get enough sleep, they often report feeling more energized throughout the day. This can help increase productivity while promoting better overall health. Exercise might even relieve certain types of migraines and tension headaches by relieving or reducing the sensations that accompany them; this is especially true if someone notices increased muscle tension before their headaches begin. It is important to find an exercise routine that is tailored to individual needs; mild-to-moderate activities like flexibility training, walking or cycling are often recommended for relief of chronic pain.

Improved Mood

Exercising regularly can result in improved mood, which can have a direct effect on headache frequency and intensity. Exercise helps to release endorphins, hormone-like chemicals in the brain that makes us feel good. This can help to improve our emotional well-being, reduce stress levels and ultimately lead to fewer headaches.

Exercise also increases the amount of oxygen your body has available for use, which can lead to lower levels of stress hormones. An increase in serotonin levels has been associated with improved mood and this is enhanced when we exercise. Not only does this help to reduce the regularity of headaches but it enhances overall mental health and enables us to ward off fatigue more effectively.

Regular exercise also encourages sounder sleep. Poor sleep has been linked with increased headache pain and reduced quality of life so adding physical activity into our daily routine can really produce measurable results in terms of reducing headaches symptoms feeling energetic during our days!

Risks of Exercising with a Headache

Exercising while having a headache can seem like a fast and easy way to ease the discomfort. However, exercising while feeling unwell is never recommended and can even be dangerous, depending on the cause of the headache. This article will discuss some of the risks of exercising with a headache and provide recommendations on when it is safe to begin exercising again.

Increased Intensity of Pain

Pain intensity can often become worse when exercising with a headache. This is because physical activity increases blood flow in the body, which can result in more severe pain in the head due to increased pressure. Exercise can also stimulate nerves, which may cause headache-related symptoms to worsen. People who are suffering from a migraine or cluster headache should avoid any strenuous physical activity that increases heart rate and blood pressure. If you are unsure if it is safe to exercise while experiencing headaches, consult a doctor before engaging in any type of workout.

It is also important to remember that hearing, seeing and smelling certain things can increase the severity of your pain during exercise as these senses may trigger a migraine attack or be associated with an existing headache. Certain smells, loud noises and bright lights can be triggers for some people and it is wise to try to avoid these whenever possible while exercising with headaches. Be thoughtful of your environment and modify your workout accordingly if necessary.

Exacerbating Symptoms

It is important to note that for some individuals, exercise can exacerbate headache symptoms. Vigorous physical activity can worsen certain types of headaches such as blood vessel spasms (vascular headaches) and cluster headaches. Exercise can also trigger migraine episodes in some people. Therefore, it is essential to identify the specific type of headache you are suffering from before engaging in physical activity so that you may be able to tailor your exercise plan accordingly.

When relieving a headache through exercise, it is recommended to take precautions and begin with milder aerobic-type activities such as walking or swimming. It is important not to push your body too hard or too quickly during this process, as this could result in further triggering of your symptoms. People who suffer from tension headaches or muscular pain should practice simple exercises such as yoga, stretching or tai chi since these activities involve both relaxation and movement of the body which can help reduce muscle tension associated with chronic headaches.

Risk of Injury

Exercise can be a great way to relieve tension headaches and is considered a safe form of physical activity. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks and know what to do if you experience a headache while working out.

One potential risk of exercising with a headache is the possibility of further damaging or damaging area that may already be inflamed. Many mild headaches are caused by tension in the muscles or joints since exercise can cause further aggravation, you run the risk of worsening your headache pain by exercising. This can also lead to an increased risk for injuries, as working out with an aggravated headache puts extra strain on your body and increases the possibility for injury.

To avoid any potential issues when exercising with a headache it’s important to proceed with caution, take frequent breaks to rest if needed, and ensure you are drinking plenty of water throughout your workout. Additionally, if at any time during your workout you experience intense pain or dizziness it’s important to stop immediately and seek medical attention right away as this could be indicative of more serious health issues occurring.


After reviewing the available evidence, it appears that the answer to the question “Is Working Out Bad for Your Headache?” is no. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that regular exercise can help relieve headaches in some cases. Additionally, if you are suffering from a headache due to overexertion after exercising, it might be best to rest until your headache subsides naturally. Therefore, while working out might not be advisable in all instances when it comes to managing your headaches, it is certainly beneficial in many cases.

Checkout this video:

Similar Posts