Headache Triggers and Exercise

When you exercise, the muscles of the head, neck, and scalp need more blood.  This causes the blood vessels to dilate, which can lead to exertion headaches.  These exercise-induced headaches commonly occur after leg movements are performed close to failure if not failure.  The sense of headache typically occurs in the back of the head or temples.  The forced dilation of the blood vessels exceed beyond their normal thresholds causing pressure on the small nerves that cover the brain.  After the heart rate and blood pressure drops, the headache becomes less intense.  Elevated blood pressure, heart rate, thickened blood, and constricted arteries are a horrible combination to create an exertion headache. 


What Causes an Exertion Headache?


Holding Your Breath

Poor Neck Position

Increased Heart Rate

Heavy Weight

How Long Will the Headache Last?

There are three phases to an exertion headache:


Intense Headache

This occurs during or immediately after working out.  It throbs, and it comes rapidly.  It won’t start decreasing until you stop activity and let your heart rate and blood pressure decrease.

Dull Headache

This phase can last up to 2 weeks.  It happens because those bundles of small nerves that cover the brain are flared.

Full Recovery

Depending on the severity of the initial phase, you may not recover for one week.  Letting your body heal is key, but if you don’t, you may not be able to perform at that level for two months.

How Can an Exertion Headache be Prevented?



Neutral Spine

How Do I Recover?


Do not attempt to push through your training session

Medical Visit

Physicians are necessary to rule out other potential causes and can see what’s truly going on.

Rest for One Week

Total rest from all activity will help you recover quicker.  This means all physical activity.