Why does my head hurt when I exercise

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The headaches or headaches are very annoying for the sufferer. There are many types of headaches, although the most common is tension (caused by anxiety, poor posture of our neck, depression, stress or blows to the head), but there are also other types of headaches such as migraines, which may be associated with physical exercise. The latter appears very often in people who practice sports and can be a cause for many to end up abandoning the desire to get fit.

The reasons for the headache when exercising

The first thing you should know is that this type of headache is called primary headache due to physical exertion. This headache is a strong pain that we feel on both sides of the head and whose symptoms are similar to those of migraine (sensitivity to light and loud noises, nausea, vomiting, etc.). It usually appears when we strain our body the most and its duration varies depending on each person. Thus, we can talk about a headache that lasts minutes but also hours.

One of the causes that can answer the question of why your head hurts when you exercise is the undue prolongation of physical exertion. Regardless of the type of exercise and effort we perform (running, swimming, tennis …), primary headache due to physical exertion appears both in people who play sports daily and in people who do it sporadically. You will know that the headache you suffer is due to the exercise performed, when you notice pressure or oppression on both sides of the skull.

The biological cause is unknown, but it is usually associated with lack of hydration during exercise: the decrease in blood sugar along with dehydration can cause nerve damage.

Another reason that can cause you a headache when you play sports is that you are maintaining an incorrect body posture , which can trigger a tension headache, since blood pressure increases and, therefore, increases our intracranial pressure.

How to relieve headache from physical exertion

When physical exertion causes you a headache, the best option is to stop exercising so that the pain gradually disappears. If the discomfort persists considerably for a long time after having stopped the physical exertion, you can take any pain reliever prescribed by your doctor that is indicated for headaches.

Remember that we have no capacity to diagnose any disease or prescribe treatments, so we advise you to go to a medical center if you notice any of the symptoms described above.

However, if what causes your headache is a bad posture you should correct it or go to a specialist to relieve tension in the muscles and, therefore, intracranial tension.

How to avoid a headache when exercising

If you are going to make physical effort for a long time, it is better that you maintain a good posture and that you hydrate well if you do not want the annoying headache to appear. Hydrating during exercise will be a good way to keep headaches away, as it is estimated that this is the main cause of its appearance. We advise you to drink isotonic drinks that contain sodium, as this element helps not lose so much water when we do physical activities.

Another aspect you should keep in mind is not exercising on an empty stomach after a heavy meal, as this can also cause headache. To avoid the rise in blood pressure, it is also advisable not to exercise with warm clothes, as this will accelerate our body heat. It is also not good to exercise in the sun or in hot environments for the same reason. Finally, the easiest: do not exercise until exhaustion. It is not good for your health nor for your head.


  • Do not exercise more than our body endures.
  • Do not exercise on an empty stomach but not full.
  • Avoid heat, sun and warm clothes.
  • Constantly hydrate during exercise.
  • Maintain a correct body posture.

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