Coming to the end of a workout only to be greeted with the beginnings of a headache isn’t a great feeling. Instead of being able to revel in the post-exercise endorphins, you probably feel like going to bed in order to sleep off the pounding headache.
There are a number of reasons why you might be experiencing a headache after working out and it could have something to do with the amount of water you’re drinking, how you’re exerting your body or whether you’ve spent too much time in the sun.
These post-workout headaches might manifest on just one side of your head or present as a throbbing pain that takes over your whole head, but thankfully, in most cases, the cause of your headache is fairly easy to fix.
This can be pretty common when you’re exercising and haven’t consumed enough water. According to Healthline, dehydration happens when your body loses more fluid than it takes in and as you sweat during exercise, you’re losing fluids. So, if you haven’t consumed enough water before exercising, it can bring on a headache.
A headache is often the first sign of dehydration, with other symptoms including fatigue, dizziness, decreased urine output and a heightened sense of thirst. As soon as you feel a headache coming on during or after exercise, consider how much water you’ve had that day and this should tell you whether or not it’s dehydration-induced. If it is, the best way to fix it is to simply drink water in order to replenish your lost fluids.
Healthline recommends drinking one to three cups of water over the course of an hour or two before exercising, while also sipping water during exercise. Follow up your workout with another glass or two straight away as well.
An exertional headache is often triggered by physical activity. While this is usually exercise, it can also happen when you experience something like a coughing fit. Exertional headaches are generally felt as a pulsating pain on both sides of your head and according to Healthline, can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
This type of headache usually falls within two camps of primary exertional headaches and secondary exertional headaches. Experts think the former is caused by the narrowing of blood vessels, which happens as you exercise, while the latter is also brought on by physical activity thanks to an underlying condition.
Secondary exertional headaches can also bring about other symptoms including vomiting, congestion, neck stiffness and vision issues. Healthline recommends going to see your GP to rule out any underlying conditions if you experience these symptoms regularly after exercising.
For those suffering from primary exercise headaches, these should eventually stop happening on their own but you can try an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain relief in the meantime.
Spending a bit too much time in the sun can trigger headaches for many people, even without them exercising. So, exerting yourself when you’ve experienced increased sun exposure can do the same. If this does happen, get out of the sun and try to sit quietly in a dark room. If you can, pop a damp washcloth on your head while doing this as it will help you cool down.
Try to avoid working out in the sun in order to stop the occurrence of headaches and don’t overexert yourself physically when you’ve spent prolonged periods of time in the sun. If you must exercise in the elements, make sure you’re wearing a hat with a wide brim as well as sunglasses and try wrapping a damp washcloth around your neck to keep you cool.
If exercise is bringing on headaches on a regular basis, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP to talk about this. While exerting your body can cause tension headaches, it shouldn’t happen every single time you’re active.