Preventing Headaches on the Run: Tips for Runners of All Levels

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

Tired of dealing with pesky headaches after hitting the pavement? Well, you’ve stumbled upon the ultimate headache-busting guide!

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned runner pushing through hot weather challenges, exercise-induced headaches can be a real pain in the… head!

Believe it or not, research shows that these throbbing head intruders bother about a third of athletes, including us passionate runners.


But fret not, we’re here to unravel the mystery behind these unwelcome guests and equip you with some powerful techniques to ease the discomfort and even keep them at bay.

Before we dive in, let’s be clear – I’m no certified health pro, but hey, I’ve done my homework! The tips and tricks I’ll share here are a result of my research and personal experiences.

Of course, when it comes to your health, it’s always smart to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your workout routine.

Ready to bid farewell to those post-run headaches? Let’s get started.

Headache After Running Explained

Alright, let’s unravel the mystery behind these sneaky exercise-induced headaches, shall we? Picture this: you’re out there pounding the pavement, lifting weights, or hitting the tennis court like a boss. Suddenly, bam!

The unwelcome guest crashes the party – a pounding headache that threatens to ruin your workout groove.

So, why do these pesky headaches crash our exercise party? It all comes down to blood flow – yes, the flow that keeps us going, but also the one that can cause some serious head drama.

You see, when you’re sprinting like Usain Bolt or giving it your all in high-intensity workouts, your head, scalp, and neck muscles are like, “Hey, we need more blood, guys!” So, the blood vessels swell up, and voila – exertional headaches gatecrash the scene!

And hey, it’s not just the high-intensity stuff – even skipping a proper warm-up can open the door for these head-pounding visitors. But wait, there’s more! Other suspects that might trigger this head pain party include dehydration (drink up, folks!), excessive sunlight exposure (time to rock those cool shades), low blood sugar (fuel up with a snack), electrolyte imbalances (eat your greens, peeps!), postural hiccups (stand tall and proud), and of course, hot, humid weather (cue the sweat and headaches).

Oh, and if you’ve got a history of migraines, well, these headaches might see that as an open invitation to join the fun.

Primary Vs. Secondary Headache Symptoms

Alright, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of these exercise-induced headache categories! Imagine you’re at a headache amusement park, and there are two main rides waiting to take you on a wild journey.

First up, we’ve got the “Primary Exercise Headaches” roller coaster – a common and often benign ride that’s not linked to any sneaky underlying conditions. It’s like that roller coaster you’ve been on a million times – you know what to expect, and it’s usually a smooth ride. These primary headaches can be tamed with standard headache therapy, like a little rest, maybe some medication, and of course, the tips we’ve shared in today’s adventure.

Hop on this ride, and you might experience throbbing pain on one or both sides of your head – but don’t worry, you can point exactly where it’s hitting you, like a pro navigator. These headaches might join the party either during or right after a hard run, and they’re the kind that might stick around for more than 24 hours, or even decide to crash for a few days. But hey, nothing we can’t handle, right?

But wait, the real thrill comes with the “Secondary Exercise Headaches” roller coaster – this one poses a little more danger, so buckle up for a wild ride! Picture yourself on a roller coaster that’s got a few unexpected loops and turns, and suddenly, you’re in for the ride of your life! These secondary headaches can be caused by some serious conditions or issues – like a tumor playing games with your brain or cardiovascular trouble outside the brain.


And trust us, this roller coaster doesn’t play around – it’s got some severe symptoms in store for you! Think of it as the worst headache of your life – not something anyone wants on their bucket list.

If you find yourself vomiting profusely, experiencing neck rigidity (like trying to turn your head while wearing a neck brace), double or sudden blurred vision (it’s like watching the world through a foggy glass), or even losing consciousness – well, it’s time to hit that emergency button and call your doctor ASAP, especially if it’s your first time on this wild ride.

Safety first, folks! Always put your health first and seek professional help if these intense symptoms come knocking. We want you to enjoy your exercise journey without any unwanted surprises on these roller coasters. Now, let’s strap in for more headache hacks and make sure your adventure is headache-free!

How to Prevent Headache After Running

Alright, my fellow runners, let’s talk about how we can prevent those pesky running headaches from crashing our party!

Warm-up To Prevent Running Headaches

One of the sneaky culprits behind those running-induced headaches is poor circulation. So, we’re gonna boost that blood flow and say goodbye to those migraines that try to gate-crash our run.

How? Make sure to warm up properly.

Start off with a gentle 5 to 10 minutes jog – like a warm-up march to the beats of your favorite tune. Get that heart pumping and your body feeling alive!

Now, let’s kick it up a notch with some running-specific dynamic moves. Think inchworms, where you reach out like a stretchy superhero, lunges that make you feel like you’re conquering the world with every step, and butt kicks that say, “Hey, I’m ready to kick some running butt today!”

And there’s more! High knees are like marching with pride, showing the world your running prowess, and pogo hops are the ultimate bounce party to lift your spirits. Finally, wrap it up with arm windmills – it’s like your arms are saying, “Come on, legs, let’s conquer the running universe together!”

By now, your body is buzzing with excitement, your blood vessels are dilating like the stars in the night sky, and you’re all set to run like the running rockstar you are! So, let’s give a high-five to the “Warm-up Wonderland” and get ready to run like there’s no tomorrow!

Ward Off The Sunlight

It’s a beautiful summer day, and you’re all geared up for a refreshing run under the glorious sun. But wait, before you hit the pavement, let’s talk about how the sun can sometimes be a headache’s best friend. Surprising, right?

According to the wise researchers who’ve studied the mysteries of headaches, as much as 60 percent of them are triggered by bright light and glare. So, it’s not just us; headaches and the sun are actually secret buddies!

So how do you protect yourself?

First off, polarized sunglasses! These amazing shades provide extra protection against reflections from all those sneaky surfaces like concrete, sidewalks, cars, mirrors, water, and sand. They’re like our own personal bodyguards, keeping the sun’s tricks at bay!

Now, here’s a fun fact: did you know that some prosthetic contact lenses can also come to our rescue? That’s right! If you prefer running with contact lenses, go for the ones with medium or high water content. They’re like tiny raindrops that keep our eyes hydrated and happy while we conquer the roads!

But that’s not all. A visor can be a a great help.! Yes, visors or hats with wide brims are like magical umbrellas that shield us from the sun’s direct rays. They keep us cool and collected, even on the hottest summer days.

Oh, and here’s a pro-tip from the “Sun Shield Squad”: whenever you can, choose to run in the shade. It’s like finding a secret hideout where the sun’s

What’s more?

Whenever you can, choose to run in the shade. It’s like finding a secret hideout where the sun’s glare can’t reach us. Plus, it adds a touch of mystery to our runs – we’re like running ninjas, mastering the art of running in the shadows!

Drink Your Water

Hydration is the secret potion that keeps us fueled and energized, and let’s face it – it’s the ultimate thirst-quencher in the world of running. But beware, because when you start running low on this magical elixir, dehydration can creep up on you like a sneaky shadow in the night.

The more miles we conquer, the more our bodies work hard to burn off our fluid stores. It’s like our inner fire, consuming every drop of water we have. And as the miles fly by, our bodies send us some subtle SOS signals, urging us to replenish our water supplies.

So what are some of these signs? Well, you might experience an insatiable thirst that rivals a desert wanderer’s longing for an oasis. You might feel fatigue creeping up on you, like a playful puppy tugging at your heels. And there’s that throbbing headache that stubbornly announces its presence, making its grand entrance into your running adventure.

Yes, those migraines that hijack your run are often just a red flag from your body, screaming, “Hey, give me some water, please!” You see, when we’re dehydrated, our arteries’ pressure can take a hit, like a deflated balloon, limiting the blood flow to the precious lining around our brain. And guess what? That’s when the head pain barges in like an unwelcome guest crashing a party!

So how do you steer clear of dehydration?

It’s simple, really – stay well hydrated before, during, and after your workouts. Imagine your water bottle as your trusty sidekick, always there to quench your thirst and fuel your running adventures!

Now, let’s not forget that each of us is unique, like stars shining in the night sky, and our water needs vary. It all depends on our running intensity, the temperature of our surroundings, the clothes we wear, and our level of conditioning. So, listen to your body’s whispers and drink up accordingly!

And here’s a little pro-tip from the hydration gods: take a glance at your urine color, for it holds the secrets of your hydration status. If it’s as clear as a sparkling mountain stream, you’re in the hydration hall of fame. But if it’s leaning towards the darker shades of yellow, don’t worry – just grab that water bottle and give it a good sip!

ear pain when running

Electrolyte Imbalances and Runners Headaches

Ah, behold the mysterious world of electrolytes – the hidden guardians of our running prowess! These little nutrients, like the unsung heroes of our bodies, work tirelessly behind the scenes, regulating our heart rate and orchestrating muscle contractions like a well-choreographed dance.

But my fellow runners, beware the treacherous path of electrolyte imbalances, for they lie in wait, ready to sabotage our running performance and unleash the dreaded post-run migraines! Picture this: you’ve just conquered that epic run, feeling like a champion who’s tamed the wild beasts of the trails. But alas, there it is – the merciless headache, like a dark cloud casting a shadow over your triumph.

You see, during those intense training sessions, electrolyte imbalances can sneak up on us like a mischievous trickster, tipping the delicate scales of our body’s harmony. And what’s the culprit often blamed for these imbalances? Ah, yes, the villainous processed foods, with their devious sodium overload but lack of other vital electrolytes like the elusive magnesium and potassium.

It’s like a grand theater production, where the sodium takes center stage, but the supporting actors – magnesium and potassium – are left waiting in the wings. And that’s when the drama unfolds, with an electrolyte imbalance setting the stage for all sorts of misfortunes, including those pesky post-run migraines.

Now, how can we restore the harmony and bring back the equilibrium of our electrolytes? Fear not, my running comrades, for the answer lies in the magical realm of whole foods – nature’s bounty of nourishment! Venture into a land of vegetables and fruits, where treasures like broccoli, sweet potatoes, cabbage, avocados, bananas, squash, and leafy greens await.

These wondrous foods are like a divine elixir, brimming with the very electrolytes we seek to restore. Embrace them like long-lost friends, and let them fortify your body for the adventures that lie ahead on the running trails.

But wait, there’s another secret hidden in the depths of this enchanting world – the mystical electrolyte supplement! When history has shown us that migraines trail us like shadowy specters after those grueling long runs, fear not – for a helping hand in the form of an electrolyte supplement can be our savior.

Manage Low Blood Sugar To Prevent Running Headaches

You’re all pumped up for your run, ready to conquer the world with an empty stomach and a warrior’s spirit. But wait! Danger lurks around the corner as your blood sugar takes a plunge, leaving you to face the daunting specter of hypoglycemia – a dreaded condition that can cast a dark cloud over your running escapades.

Of course, it’s not hopeless. The key lies in the enchanted realm of a well-balanced diet – a magical concoction of carbohydrates, protein, and fat that fuels your body like a symphony of nourishment.

Imagine your body as a marvelous machine, craving the perfect blend of energy sources to power your running adventures. Carbohydrates are like the spark that ignites the fire, providing a quick burst of fuel to kickstart your journey. Protein, on the other hand, is like the sturdy foundation, helping your muscles stay strong and resilient. And let’s not forget the mystical power of fat, like a slow-burning ember that sustains you on those long, endurance-challenging quests.

To keep your blood sugar knights in shining armor, feast upon a pre-run snack one to two hours before your grand expedition. And oh, the choices are endless! Picture this: a glorious half a bagel adorned with creamy peanut butter, ready to power you through the rugged terrains. Or perhaps a delectable fruit and nut bard, a true treasure chest of energy, awaits to accompany you on your running quest.

With this well-balanced feast, your blood sugar shall stand tall, keeping the harrowing throbbing headache at bay and ensuring a triumphant journey on the running trails.

Practice Good Form

Bad running technique causes tension in the shoulders and neck, which, in turn, can quickly turn into head pain when running.

For example, an excessive forward head position may take a toll on the posterior neck muscles, damaging nerves and diffusing the pain to the neck and head.

Here’s how to fix this problem.

Ensure proper alignment throughout your body, paying attention to your neck and head position throughout your runs.

Keep your head held straightforward, and neck in line with the spine—avoid bending it downward or extending it backward.

Imagine there’s a balloon attached to the top of your head, pulling your body gently upwards and forward.

Still feel not optimized enough?

Resistance training can also help.

Aim to build strength and mobility in your postural muscles—that includes the upper back, neck, and shoulder muscles.

This helps soothe tension that could be the cause (or a contributor) to your head pain while running.

Take Anti-inflammatory Pills

let’s explore the option of taking anti-inflammatory pills. Picture this scenario: you’ve got a big race coming up, and the pressure is mounting like a mountain before you. The anticipation and stress might trigger those unwelcome migraines, threatening to turn your race day into a rollercoaster of pain.

In such dire straits, some runners might consider reaching for those over-the-counter pills as a preemptive strike against the incoming headache storm. But, and this is important, don’t rush into it like a charging bull – consult your wise and knowledgeable doctor first, seeking their sage advice before venturing into the land of medications.

If the migraines persist despite your efforts, don’t be a lone wolf battling the pain. Seek the counsel of a professional – a knight in shining medical armor – who might offer the magic potion of prescription headache medication to soothe your symptoms.

Stretch It

Now, let’s untangle the mystery of tension type headaches. Imagine this: your upper body, particularly your shoulders and neck, are like tightly coiled springs, just waiting for that moment of release. And when you embark on your running journey, the tension in these muscles might be the culprit behind those bothersome migraines that haunt you. Oh, and let’s not forget the daily stress that adds fuel to this fiery headache demon!

But fear not, for the remedy lies in the realm of stretching! After your heroic run, spend a mere 10 minutes indulging in the art of stretching. Unwind those coiled springs in your upper back, shoulders, and neck with the grace of a skilled dancer. It’s like performing a magical ritual to banish the headache demon from your body!

Check out the following YouTube Tutorials for the best upper body stretchers.

Behind The Back Stretch

Cervical Extensor Stretch

Neck Rotations Stretch

Headaches While Running – The Conclusion

If you often suffer from a headache after running, the above strategies should be enough to bring relief to what’s ailing you.

If it’s not the case, consult your doctor as soon as possible to rule out any existing (often serious) health conditions.

Please feel free to leave your comments and question in the section below.

Thank you for reading my post and stay healthy!

Keep Running Strong

David D.

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