There’s nothing worse than coming home from solid run only to have an excruciating headache. From mild annoyances to full fledged migraines, headaches during and after exercise are a common complaint for runners everywhere. If you’ve been suffering from headaches during or after your run, here are seven possible reasons why running is giving you a headache and solutions to try.
The most common reason why you might be experiencing a headache during or after a run, is simply that you aren’t consuming enough water. WebMD has a really good overview of dehydration and breaks down some good self-care tips.
The solution: It’s important to drink water frequently throughout the day, don’t try and guzzle it down right before a run or right after. Aim for 3-6 ounces of water every thirty minutes. If remembering to drink water is difficult for you, try setting an alarm on your phone or buying a fancy new water bottle and keeping it near you at all times. I use this Nalgene bottle and it has the ounce markings that I way I am never confused where I am.
You can also boost your hydration by eating H2O and electrolyte-rich fruits and veggies during the day before your run; good sources include bananas, baked sweet potatoes, almonds, watermelon, cucumbers and coconut water.
Electrolytes have a lot of roles to play in your body. According to Dr. Axe, an imbalance in these chemicals can really throw you off your game - and give you awful headaches especially after exercising.
The solution: The most common culprit of an electrolyte imbalance is a poor diet that’s high in processed foods. Heavily processed foods are often loaded with sodium, but low in other electrolytes like magnesium and potassium - thus paving the way for an imbalance.
Decrease your sodium intake by avoiding junk foods and restaurants. Focus your diet around whole, unpackaged foods - especially vegetables and fruits rich in potassium and magnesium (such as leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, squash, bananas, and avocados). To help you get started with choosing what foods are good and planning out your meals, we put together a 28 meal plan for only $9.
Low Blood Sugar (hypoglycemia)
Low blood sugar levels are a common source of exercise headaches, especially if you avoid eating before a run.
The solution: Try having a light pre-run snack about an hour to 30-min before you run. Pick a snack that that mixes protein, fat, carbs, and a little sugar. A PB&J on whole wheat bread, fruit with greek yogurt, a smoothie, a glass of kefir, or a whole grain granola bar are all great choices.
Tightness in Neck, Shoulders and Upper Back
There is a reason the Native Americans used self-massage as a healing treatment - they recognized the correlation between tense muscles and pain/inflammtion throughout the body.
Your headaches could very well be the result of tightness in the neck or shoulders, which are not typically areas that runners focus on during post-run stretches. The solution: Take time after your run to stretch out the neck, shoulders, and upper back or try some of these yoga poses. Then relax in a hot shower and give yourself a little well-deserved upper-body self-massage. You can also apply heat wraps to this area following a run.
Sometimes exercise headaches can be as simple as too much squinting of the eyes.
The solution: If you run during the day, try wearing sunglasses or a hat and see if your symptoms subside. This could very well be the culprit of your headaches if you find the sunlight often gives you headaches in your car. Squinting can also be brought on by windy conditions (such as running on the beach or on a particularly windy day). Try running with the wind at your back, or moving your workout indoors on windy days.
Tight fitting elastics, headbands, hats and visors can restrict blood flow to our head, inadvertently causing your headaches. This same reaction can also be brought on by pulling your hair too tightly into a bun or a ponytail.
The solution: Loosen up a little! If you typically pull your hair into a tight ponytail or bun, try a low pony or braid instead.
Underlying Health Problems
If you suffer from migraines, physical activity could simply be a trigger for you. Headaches can also serve as warning signs to other underlying health problems, which may arise immediately after physical activity when your body is compromised. If headaches during or after running are a regular occurrence for you and you’ve tried everything, see a doctor for further diagnosis.