For some people, going for a run can cause what’s known as the rush, a brief feeling of euphoria or breathlessness. But for some, running can cause something unpleasant: a headache.
Exercise or headache was first described by researchers in 1968. It occurs during or after intense physical activity – such as running, jogging, lifting weights, or sex.
Although symptoms vary from person to person, headaches often affect all sides of the head, which some describe as similar to a migraine.
It can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. Some people may also experience frequent headaches.
But although it affects anywhere between 1 and 26 percent of adults (and up to 30 percent of teenagers), there is still not much scientific information about headaches.
This may be because they are not painful enough to stop people from exercising, they stop when people stop exercising, or because the symptoms overlap with another headache (such as migraine), meaning people are treated instead. .
So, maybe, it might be more common than we think.
But where studies of a few people have been conducted, such a headache appears to be more common in people between the ages of 22 and 40, although it usually starts before the age of 30.
Men in these studies also suffer from it, accounting for about 80 percent of the minority population with the condition. More research will be needed to determine whether men are more likely to have them, and if so, why.
Why does it happen?
When we exercise, the blood flow to the brain increases to ensure that it has enough oxygen to keep our body moving. But this also means that there is an increase in the amount of CO2 and heat our brain must remove. To deal with this, our blood vessels expand, and this stretching can cause pain.
Since everyone has a different size and body composition, for some people the extra exercise required of their circuit can be enough to trigger a headache. But for others, certain conditions can cause headaches.
Exercising in hot weather is one example. The brain runs much hotter than the rest of the body, and can’t transfer heat to the skin through sweating.
The only way to get rid of the heat is to expand the blood vessels so that blood can flow to the brain, which helps to get rid of some of the heat.
Since hot and humid weather already increases the temperature of the brain, adding exercise to the mix only increases the temperature, causing our blood vessels to swell too much for us to cope with.
This may explain why some people get headaches when exercising on a hot day.
Training at high altitudes also increases the risk of headaches. This happens because of the lack of blood that carries oxygen to the surface. T
This means that more blood has to go to the brain to supply it with all the oxygen it needs, which causes inflammation and pain.
People with a personal or family history of migraines are also more likely to suffer from migraines. This is probably because the same changes that cause migraines – such as changes in blood vessel size – also cause headaches.
How to avoid it
Headaches disappear soon after you stop exercising. This is usually within an hour or two, when your heart rate is lower and there is less need for oxygen from the brain.
But if your headache is also related to dehydration, it may take a long time to get rid of it until you rehydrate. This takes about three hours.
If symptoms persist or your headache is severe, over-the-counter pain relievers – such as paracetamol or ibuprofen – may help.
But if headaches are common for you, you may want to talk to your doctor about trying certain medications that can reduce symptoms and sometimes reduce the chance of these headaches from occurring.
There are also things you can do to prevent a headache from happening in the first place.
It is thought that vigorous exercise after a long period without exercise can cause headaches, because your cardiovascular system is not strong enough to cope with the demands.
That’s why it’s best to start exercising slowly if you haven’t exercised in a long time. It is also a good idea to warm up slowly every time you exercise to improve your blood circulation.
Staying hydrated is also important. This ensures that the brain’s nerves can function properly. Adequate rest will also ensure that the brain works at its best and will help you feel less pain.
Although headaches can be annoying, they should not stop you from exercising, especially in hot weather when they are more common.
Warming up slowly and avoiding hot days or high altitudes can help reduce your risk of it happening.
Trying other types of exercise that don’t keep your heart rate up — like yoga or weightlifting — can be beneficial.
Adam Taylor, Professor and Director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre, Lancaster University
This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the first article.