Exertional Migraines - What a Pain! You just finished a great workout, but instead of exercise high, you end up with throbbing head pain. Learn how to avoid exercise headaches caused by exertion.
You just finished a great workout, but instead of exercise high, you end up with throbbing head pain. Learn how to avoid exercise headaches caused by exertion.
To run or not to run? That is the migraineur’s question…
Research proves that some of the best ways to avoid chronic pain is by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of rest, managing stress, avoiding pain triggers, and incorporating exercise into your daily schedule. But what are you supposed to do if exercise turns out to be one of your worst migraine triggers?
What are exertional headaches?
People use the term “exertional headaches” interchangeably with “exercise headaches,” but that can be misleading. While it’s true that exertional headaches usually occur after strenuous exercise, such as weight lifting, running, and other high-impact aerobic activity, there are other activities that may precede an exertional headache, including sneezing, coughing, sexual intercourse, or just having a strong bowel movement. Also read: 5 Sports-Related Migraines You Never Heard Of
What’s the best way to prevent exertional headaches without dropping my fitness regimen?
Tip #1- Ease into it!
Don’t just run out the door and take off at a fast sprint, and expect the rest of your body to catch up. You need to give your heart rate a chance to slowly build up to your endurance level, in order to better regulate blood flow to your brain, and thus prevent a backlash of head pain. Similarly, ease out of your workout gently, by slowing down gradually and taking lots of deep cleansing breaths.
Tip #2- Check your heart rate!
If you use an elliptical machine, stair stepper, or stationary bike, then you can keep track of your heart rate, pace, and calories burned easily. If you choose the road less traveled, invest in a simple heart rate device. It will save you a headache later, and maximize your fitness potential.
Tip #3- Breathe!
If anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting or yoga, is your workout choice, then remember to breathe deeply and regularly throughout. Take plenty of controlled breaths, and coordinate them with your movements- first breathing in, and then out while exerting your strength.
Tip #4- Check your blood sugar!
Some people who get migraines are very sensitive to changes in blood sugar. Try drinking orange juice or a sports drink before exercising, and see if that makes any difference in your migraine headache symptoms.
Tip #5- Don’t forget to stay hydrated, too!
Even if you don’t opt for sports drinks, it’s essential to stay hydrated during a workout, and the rest of the day, as well, particularly if you live in a hot, dry climate. Dehydration is one of the leading causes of headaches. Also read: 15 Tricks for Staying Hydrated and Avoiding Migraines
Tip #6- Try a bit of caffeine!
This is only good advice if caffeine isn’t one of your headache triggers, of course. Many headache treatments use caffeine to constrict the blood vessels. If you do decide to drink coffee before a workout, remember rule #5- drink extra portions of water! Which Foods Trigger the Most Migraines? See our Checklist
Tip #7- Try indomethacin!
Exertional headaches are usually benign. In that case, your doc tor might prescribe indomethacin to help you avoid getting migraines every time you want to get a good workout.
Tip #8- Take more magnesium!
In some cases, a simple magnesium deficiency correlates strongly with migraine headaches. Many popular nutrients for migraines combine the beneficial properties of magnesium, riboflavin, and butterbur.
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