About 10% of healthy adults develop mild to moderate headaches during or after a workout, a condition known as “primary exercise headache”. The headache usually comes on suddenly and can be on one or both sides of the head. It is not caused by another disorder and researchers believe that changes in blood flow to the brain can trigger the headache.
Fortunately, steps can be taken to avoid this problem. Since sustained exertion can cause this type of head pain, ease into exercise by warming up for 5 – 10 minutes. Start with a slow pace and increase speed every minute until you are at your walking/running speed. Don’t skip the five minute cool-down at the end of your session.
Also, stay hydrated by drinking water before,during and after exercising. Aleve or a similar pain reliever, taken an hour before your workout, may prevent an exercise-related headache.
Primary exercise headaches usually last from 5 minutes to two days. They typically go away within 3 to 6 months as the body adjusts to the new regular exercise program. To help the body adjust, take a few weeks to increase your speed of walking/running.
If these tips don’t seem to help, or if the headaches are severe and/or accompanied by other symptoms, such as weakness, numbness and or visual memory problems, talk to your physician. You may need a neurological evaluation.