Headaches are a common occurrence among people who exercise regularly. The jury is out on the exact cause of headaches but it is thought that it is partly due to the change in blood flow to the brain that occurs during exercise. Running, swimming, weight lifting, rowing and tennis are the top sports when it comes to headaches.
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY HEADACHES
The medical profession puts exercise headaches into two categories – primary and secondary headaches. The former are usually harmless headaches and can be treated with over the counter medication. Secondary headaches, on the other hand, are caused by a serious problem within the brain and need professional medical treatment. If in doubt about the type of headache you are experiencing, then see your doctor immediately.
SIMPLE WAYS TO PREVENT A PRIMARY EXERCISE HEADACHE WARM UP AND COOL DOWN
It is essential that you don’t start your intensive exercise programme without sufficiently warming up. The same goes with finishing your workout – you must cool down slowly afterwards.
WATER AND FOOD
Dehydration is an obvious factor that can cause headaches, so ensure you are fully hydrated before you start your programme and remain hydrated throughout your exercise programme. If you are embarking on an intense exercise, such as running a marathon, a bottle of vitamin water or a sports drink could be added to your fluid intake. Keep your sugar levels up by eating appropriate foods before you embark on your daily run. It is advisable to have a small balanced snack with fat, carbs and a small amount of protein, about an hour before you exercise.
TIGHT HEAD GEAR
Perhaps your hat or cap band is too tight or you have pulled your hair too tightly into your pony tail. Another cause of headaches can be sunglasses which squeeze the sides of your head.
If you are prone to primary exercise headaches, avoid working out in high temperatures and in conditions with high humidity levels.
OVERTRAINING AND BAD TECHNIQUE
Beginners, who haven’t learnt to listen to their bodies, are far more likely to suffer from headaches than old hands. Overtraining can lead to muscle tension and joint inflammation. Tight neck muscles are one of the commonest causes of exercise headaches, so correct spine and neck alignment are vital, no matter what sort of exercise you are involved in. Incorrect breathing is another cause of headaches as it increases inter-cranial pressure. Remember, if your form of exercise involves dealing with traffic, then wear a reflective safety vest or reflective safety belt.