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Understanding Exertion Headache: 4 Common Causes of Headaches During or After Workouts

Exertion headache is a type of headache that can occur during or after physical activity, such as exercise or manual labor. This type of headache can be uncomfortable and even debilitating, making it difficult to continue with your physical activity or daily tasks. In this article, we will discuss in detail the four most common causes of exertion headaches and how to prevent them.

Cause #1: Dehydration

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of exertion headaches. When you are dehydrated, your brain tissue can shrink, which can cause your brain to pull away from your skull. This can result in a headache that is often described as a dull ache or a throbbing sensation. To avoid dehydration, make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. It is essential to stay hydrated by drinking water or fluids that contain electrolytes to replace fluids and minerals lost through sweating.

Cause #2: Muscle Tension

Muscle tension is another common cause of exertion headaches. When you exercise, your muscles can become tense and tight, which can cause pressure to build up in your head. This pressure can result in a headache that is often described as a dull ache or a tight band around your head. To avoid muscle tension headaches, make sure to stretch before and after your workout. Stretching helps to relax your muscles and reduce tension, which can help prevent headaches.

Cause #3: Low Blood Sugar

Low blood sugar levels can also cause exertion headaches. When your blood sugar levels drop, your brain may not get enough glucose to function properly. This can result in a headache that is often described as a dull ache or a throbbing sensation. To avoid low blood sugar headaches, make sure to eat a healthy meal before your workout and to keep snacks on hand in case your blood sugar levels drop during your workout. Consuming foods that contain complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats can help stabilize blood sugar levels.

Cause #4: High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can also cause exertion headaches. When your blood pressure is high, the blood vessels in your brain can become inflamed and swollen, which can cause a headache that is often described as a pulsing sensation. To avoid high blood pressure headaches, make sure to monitor your blood pressure regularly and to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management, can help prevent high blood pressure.


  1. Can exertion headaches be treated with medication?
    • Yes, depending on the cause of the headache, medication may be prescribed to alleviate the pain. However, it is important to address the underlying cause of the headache to prevent it from recurring.
  2. How long do exertion headaches typically last?
    • Exertion headaches can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. If the headache persists for an extended period, it is recommended to seek medical attention.
  3. Can exertion headaches be prevented?
    • Yes, they can be prevented by staying hydrated, stretching before and after workouts, maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, and monitoring blood pressure. Additionally, it is essential to listen to your body and avoid overexertion during physical activities.

In conclusion, exertion headaches are a common condition that can be prevented by taking simple steps such as staying hydrated, stretching, maintaining a healthy diet and blood sugar levels, monitoring blood pressure, and avoiding overexertion during physical activities. By understanding the common causes of exertion headaches, you can take the necessary precautions to prevent them and maintain your physical activity routine.