If you have ever experienced a headache after running, or this is a problem you encounter regularly, you are not alone. Many people experience a pulsating pain or throb on both sides of the head after exercising. It can last anywhere between a few minutes to 48 hours.
Many people run to feel mentally and physically stronger and to release those all important endorphins, also known as ‘happy hormones’. It seems counterproductive when it leaves us in pain and feeling worse than when we started!
What are the causes, and is there a running headache cure? Read on to learn about five common causes, as well as how to treat and prevent headaches when running.
- What Causes Headaches After Running
- How to Treat a Headache After Running
- Tips For Preventing a Headache After Running
We know you're hear to learn about why you're getting headaches after running, but let us divert your attention for just a moment. Since you're here we take it you're someone with a keen interest in keeping fit and healthy. Did you know you can take your interest in fitness and transform it into a rewarding career?
Here at OriGym, we offer an array of CIMSPA recognised personal training courses which provide you the skills, knowledge and qualifications to become a full-time fitness professional. Enquire with us today, or alternatively, download our free prospectus here.
Download Your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
What Causes Headaches After Running?
If you often find yourself wondering: “why do I get a headache after running?”, this section is for you.
A bad headache after running can no doubt ruin a good workout and even inconvenience our progress. While the causes are most commonly directly linked to the exercise itself, there could be other reasons why you are experiencing head pain after running.
If you find that you encounter headaches from running, along with other symptoms such as: headache and nausea after running, dizziness, neck stiffness or vision issues, it’s always best to consult your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions. Hormones, stress, diet and lifestyle choices can all also play a part in giving you headaches.
For running headache causes directly linked to exercising, we’ve covered the top 5 common reasons why they can happen which can hopefully shed some light on why this is happening to you.
First up on our list of causes for headaches after running is exertion. This relates to both the physical and mental effort which we apply to a situation, and in this case the effort we put into strenuous physical activity which can lead to an exertional headache.
Exertion related headaches can occur during running or once you have stopped, and can present itself alongside symptoms such as: throbbing head pain, neck stiffness and vomitting, and in more serious cases, loss of consciousness and double vision.
This form of headache is not restricted simply to running either, and can occur after activities and scenarios such as coughing fits and even sexual activity - simply anything that requires us to call on high levels of energy.
Exertional headaches are split into two categories: primary and secondary. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports state that exertional primary headaches are caused by strenuous exercise. They are often confused with other primary and secondary headache disorders, such as migraines, and will often go untreated as a result.
The report says that a typical exertional primary headache from running is often presented as a pulsing or throbbing head pain without symptoms of nausea or vomiting. This could last anywhere between five minutes to 48 hours and should eventually stop on its own without the need for treatment or medical assistance.
If you’re wondering 'why do I get a headache after running?', unfortunately, the causes of exertional primary headaches are unclear. However, the aforementioned report suggests an increase in blood pressure and swelling blood vessels during exercise could result in a severe headache after running.
The shifting pressures and metabolic demands of running could also play a role in exertional headaches, especially when you stop to rest and the body starts to recover.
In contrast, exertional secondary headaches are triggered by physical activity, but are typically the result of another underlying condition; such condititions could be a simple sinus infection, or more serious conditions such as heart disease or brain tumor.
Contrast to exertional primary hehadaches, exertional secondary headaches often come with other symptoms such as vomiting, congestion, neck stiffness and vision issues. If you experience a headache and nausea after running, it’s best to consult your doctor to rule out any underlying conditions.
Dehydration is a common and often overlooked cause of headaches after running, with many people seeing it as part and parcel of physical exercise - however it should not be dismissed.
Dehydration can result in a bad headache after running as the body loses more fluid than it takes in during exercise in the form of sweat. As well as the obvious fluid that we lose through sweating, it also causes a loss in electrolytes, the essential minerals that we need that support key bodily functions.
You may be more familiar with electrolytes by the names of: sodium, calcium and potassium - all of which are notable electrolytes, and their functions include: hydrating the body, regulatating nerve and muscle function, balancing blood acidity and pressure, and helping to rebuild any damaged tissue.
When the body is dehydrated, the brain can temporarily contract or shrink from fluid loss. This causes the brain to pull away from the skull, resulting in a dehydration headache - another form of headache that occurs after running. Rest assured, once rehydrated, the brain returns to its normal state and the headache should stop.
An obvious cause of a dehydration headache is failing to drink enough fluid over the course of the day, and this can occur regardless of whether or not you exercise.
The European Journal of Neurology performed a study to measure the effectiveness of increasing the water intake in patients who frequently suffer headaches. By the end of the study, the 18 participants who had previously reported migraines and tension headaches all reported an overall improvement and reduction in the total number of hours and intensity of headache episodes.
This stands as sufficient evidence that by hydrating the body, particularly when we exercise, we can minimise the risk of experiencing dehydration related headaches.
Headaches after running are one of the first signs of dehydration and we suggest you act accordingly to address this issue before panicking about your post-running headache and associating it with other causes on this list. You can do this through drining fluids or why not fill your running kit with the best hydration tablets to fuel your body.
Other symptoms of dehydration include: extreme thirst, fatigue, feeling lightheaded and dry mouth.
The longer you go without fluids, the worse your headache can become, for example, you may only experience a headache after running 10k or longer distances - this will be dependant on the individual, however general guidance suggests you should attempt to drink around 500ml in the first 30 minutes after your run and keep drinking every five to 10 minutes until you have reached your distance target.
Though dehydration can generally be treated by replacing lost fluid at the earliest convenience, severe hydration is a medical emergency and requires medical treatment as soon as possible. These symptoms include excessive thirst, reduced sweating, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms during or after running, seek medical attention.
#3 Low Blood Sugar
If you're experiencing headaches after running long distance more specifically, or first thing in the morning, our third suggested cause might eyeopening for you!
Unknown to most, a headache can in fact be a symptom of hypoglycemia, a condition which occurs when the level of sugar or glucose in your blood drops too low, and as a result the brain receives less glucose than it needs to function normally. The human brain depends completely on glucose to operate functions such as: thinking, learning and memory, dips in glucose levels are strongly tied with how effectively these functions can work.
Carbohydrates provide vital fuel for the body. Our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose and then carry it in the blood to whichever parts of the body need it. The brain requires a continuous supply of glucose in order to function. When your glucose levels drops, the brain is one of the first organs affected.
Running forces the body to burn through calories and carbohydrates at a faster rate than normal, and with that a higher level of glucose is needed by muscles to fuel the body and prevent you from overheating, which means less fuel for your brain. This may explain your bad headache after running 10k or longer distances!
As the body draws on the readily-avaialble carbohydrates, it means that if the body is lacking their presence as you have not eaten enough calories and filled your body with a sufficient amount of nutrients prior to a run, this could be a further cause of your headache when running.
According to Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, dietary factors are frequently cited as triggers of migraine and other types of headache. The maintenance of blood sugar levels supplies energy for the nervous system and can even prevent and/or treat migraines and other headache attacks. Without an adequate amount of these consumed nutrients, many of the bodily functions can not operate to their full capacity.
Alongside a headache during running, low blood sugar levels can cause a variety of symptoms, with early signs including: sweating, dizziness, hunger and mood changes, also commonly known as being ‘hangry’. However, it can affect everyone differently and symptoms can change over time.
If low blood sugar level is not treated, you may find you start to suffer from other symptoms, such as: weakness, blurred vision, confusion, fits or passing out. Though low blood sugar can present a dangeous risk if it is not treated to quickly, it is easy to address and manage by yourself once you have identified the early signs of hypoglycemia.
Keen to learn more about blood sugar, maybe even blood pressure and helping those with these struggles manage it? You may find your calling with our Level 4 Diabeted Control and Weight Management course.
#4 - Running Form
While some of you may have gained the answer you were looking for to your question of: 'why do I get a headache after running?', some of us may still be in the dark about the cause behind our pain. If you're amongst the crowd still searching for an answer, then your running form may have something to do with it.
Tension headaches are the most notable type of headache and are caused through muscle tension that can arise through exercise and bad posture, and even in cases of stress.
This muscle tension is owing to the fact that poor posture, particularly slouching, builds pressure in the neck muscles, head and shoulders, further placing strain and weight on parts of the body which should not be engaged if done correctly.
A tension headache after running is described as pressure or tightness around the head, sometimes spreading into or from the neck. The headaches usually last a few hours, but can persist for several days, presending a debilitating and painful headache when running which you will want to avoid.
To examine the effects of posture on headaches, the official journal of the International Headache Society, Cephalalgia studied 60 female subjects who were divided into two groups on the basis of absence or presence of headache. The study examined upper neck strength and posture of both groups to see whether it had any correlation or links to their headaches.
The results showed that the headache group had significantly less strength and endurance in the upper neck, with both groups also presenting a notable difference in natural head postures, as the headache group had a more 'forward head posture', which was said to be the cause of their tension.
Therefore, if you have poor running posture, you may find yourself with an especially bad headache after running long distance, as your poor form is causing pressure on your head, shoulders and neck for a prolonged period of time. If you're not quite sure whether your running form is correct or it could use some work, we have put together a list of tips to improve your running technique.
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that posture plays a big part in tension headaches. Especially as running is a high-impact form of exercise, poor posture could result in injuries and a headache the day after running. Although this is one of the most common running headache causes, there are ways to treat and prevent it!
#5 - Environment
If you are already prone to headaches, the weather could be a trigger and you may have a greater sensitivity to changes in the environment. This means that grey skies, high humidity, rising temperatures and storms can bring on a severe headache after running.
Specific weather triggers may include:
- Temperature changes
- High humidity
- High winds
- Stormy weather
- Extremely dry conditions
- Bright sunshine
- Air pressure changes
Bright, sunny weather can cause a headache while running for those sensitive to light, whilst hot and dry weather puts you at a greater risk of dehydration, especially if you are running in warmer climates. Humidity and storms cause pollen counts to soar and spread easily, which may result in headaches due to allergic reactions.
To explore these triggers further, professor Amanda Ellison at Durham University researched the relation between headaches and the weather. She found that pressure changes in the atmosphere can also create an imbalance in sinus pressure causing inflammation and pain, as well as irritating the nerves.
Pressure changes can trigger chemical and electrical changes in the brain, which irritates the nerves and causes an imbalance in brain chemicals, such as serotonin. Serotonin is the hormone that stabilises our mood, feelings of wellbeing and happiness, as well as enabling brain cells and the nervous system to communicate well with each other.
This imbalance in brain chemicals can be one of the main running headache causes. Exercising may only exacerbate the pressure and lead to a particularly bad headache after running long distance.
In high temperatures, a headache while running can also be a symptom of heat exhaustion, with other symptoms including: high body temperature, nausea, rapid breathing and rapid heart beat. The symptoms should go if you immediately seek shade, cool down and drink plenty of fluid. You can read more about this in our full guide on running in hot weather.
If you still feel unwell and symptoms worsen after 30 minutes, this may lead to heatstroke and needs immediate medical attention. The NHS advice is to call 999 if you or someone else have any signs of heatstroke.
How to Treat a Headache After Running
Most headaches will typically go on their own once you cool down, rehydrate and rest. However, there are ways to treat your headache after running and speed up recovery, as let's face it, no headache is a plesant experience.
#1 - Apply Heat to the Neck and Shoulders
There is often confusion between whether a situation will be best treated through the use of a hot or cold compress.
While both ice/cold and heat can help with pain, many people with headaches after running, particularly tension-type headaches, prefer warmth, whereas, those with migraines often choose cold. Similarly to how those with knee injuries use knee compression sleeves.
A headache after running can be soothed by applying heating pads or a warm compress to your head and neck as this will help to ease pressure and open up the blood vessels. If you don’t have a heating pad or hot water bottle, holding a warm mug of tea to your temples will do the trick.
Having a warm shower after your run will also help to increase blood flow and relax the muscles of the neck and shoulders. This can be done straight after your run or if you experience a headache the day after running.
#2 - Take Over-the-Counter Painkillers
Perhaps the most obvious solution, a quick running headache cure is to take painkillers, such as paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen particularly is an anti-inflammatory painkiller and works especially well for headaches. Soluble painkillers that you can dissolve into a glass of water are also a good option as they are absorbed quickly into your body.
Painkillers tend to be most effective when taken at the first signs of a headache attack, so don’t wait until your symptoms get worse, if you feel the onset of a tension headache after running, taking painkillers can prevent the pain of the headache from increasing and minimise the experience.
#3 - Drink Plenty Of Fluids
As dehydration is a common cause of a headache after running, drinking one or two glasses of water should help your headache subside. Water is the best choice when it comes to rehydrating your body as it it keeps your body cool and helps make your muscles and joints work better while preventing cramps and fatigue.
Diluted juices and sports drinks are also good fluid replacers and the sugars are a bonus, especially if you’ve been on a long run. If you experience a headache the day after running, you may need to continue drinking more fluids to aid recovery. Ensure to keep your fluid intake up and avoid drinks such as alcohol and coffee, as they can promote dehydration.
#4 - Replace Lost Electrolytes
Similarly to the former point, if you’ve had a headache while running, replacing your electrolytes when you get home can help to relieve the pain.
Drinks rich in electrolytes include: coconut water, milk, fruit juices and sports drinks - with Lucozade often opted for as a popular choice. You can also use electrolyte tablets that dissolve in water for ease; for more options, we have put together a list of the 17 best electrolyte drinks, all available on the UK market.
Electrolytes include minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, which all ensure your body functions at its optimal rate. Not only will replacing electrolytes treat a headache after running, they can also stop other post-workout pains such as muscle cramps. Below are key electrolytes and the foods you can eat to replace them.
Sodium Chloride: salted nuts, trail mix, crackers, popcorn, pickles, jerky
Potassium: bananas, melons, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi
Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, figs, cashews, peanuts
Calcium: dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, dairy-free milk drinks with added calcium, green leafy vegetables
#5 - Increase Blood Sugar Level
If you have identified that the cause of your severe headache after running is due to low blood sugar levels, this can be rectified by increasing your blood sugar levels. The NHS recommends consuming a sugary drink or snack, such as a small glass of fizzy drink (not a diet variety) or fruit juice, a small handful of sweets, three or six glucose tablets or one to two tubes of glucose gel.
Another great running headache cure is a snack containing slow-release carbohydrates, as they offer properties which can quickly treat symptoms. These may include: a slice of whole grain bread or toast, a couple of biscuits or a glass of milk. Taking these steps will quickly improve your blood sugar levels!
Become a Personal Trainer with OriGym!
- Qualify & start earning in just 2 weeks
- Study full-time, part-time or online
- REPS & CIMSPA Accredited
#6 - Stretch & Cool Down
If you often get a headache the day after running, it may be a sign that you need to give yourself time to cooldown, stretch and incorporate rest days into your exercise routine for a proper recovery.
Stretching has been lauded as another key cure for a tension headache, especially to relieve tension in the neck and shoulders.
With stretching, we work to lengthen, strengthen and release the soft tissue, which in turn can directly help us improve alignment and reduce the strain on these muscles. So next time a headache arises, before you resort the throwing a blanket over your head, try being proactive and combat your headache with some stretches. For guidance, check out our best shoulder stretches for pain & tightness here.
#7 - Massage & Relaxation Techniques
If you find yourself with a tension headache after running, add a gentle massage to your cooldown routine! Gently massaging your neck, temples, jaw and forehead can ease sinuses and pressure. Using lavender, rosemary or peppermint oil can also help to relax muscles and ease pain.
Taking deep breaths alongside stretching after running can help to release tension headaches caused by environmental changes. Especially if you are sensitive to the sun’s glare, spending time in a cool, quiet and dark place will be a relief and aid relaxation.
Particularly interested in this area of fitness? Find out how to become a massage therapist in the UK here.
Tips For Preventing a Headache After Running
We’ve covered treatments for a headache after running and the causes that trigger them in the first place, but what about preventing them from happening altogether? Below is a list of things you can try that will help reduce the occurance of headaches after running.
With that being said, we must emphasise that if you frequently suffer of headaches from running, you should contact your GP or a medical professional, particualrly if your headaches exist alongside other symptoms, as this could be an indicator of a much more serious issue.
#1 - Drink Plenty Of Water
We know we have stressed this twice already, however drinking regularly throughout the day, and ensuring you hydrate in the morning if you like to run first thing, should not only act as an aid in case of a headache arising, but it can in fact prevent dehydration headaches from occuring altogether. Incorporating plenty of fruit and vegetables into your diet will also help as they are water-rich and hydrating.
To prevent a dehydration headache during running, drink 1 to 3 cups of water over the course of an hour or two before running. This should be followed by a glass or two after your run, and must we stress the importance of taking water with you when running, especially in warmer climates to stop yourself from overheating and getting a headache after running 10k or longer distances!
Sometimes the reason behind our lack of liquid throughout the day is because we're swamped under with work or errands and it can be time-consuming standing up to get six to eight glasses of water. We get it. That's why we have put together a guide on the best running water bottles, many of which would only need refilling 2-3 times to hit your daily water intake!
#2 - Warm Up Before Running
To prevent an exertional headache during running, be sure to warm up thoroughly and ease into your workout. You may be experiencing the headache if you possess a lower or beginner fitness-level ability, or if you’re building your fitness back up after some time off! A headache can be a clear sign that you’ve pushed yourself beyond your limits.
Benefits of dynamic stretching include: warming the body up, gets the blood pumping, reduces the risk of injury, improves mobility and shortens your required recovery time.
Easing into your workout can also stop the occurance of a headache the day after running. A five minute walk before running can help your body prepare, as well as reducing your running speed, duration and need to take breaks. Over time, this will benefit your fitness level to naturally build up without causing any damage.
#3 - Eat Nutritious, Balanced Meals
The best way to prevent a hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) headache when running is to have regular nutritious, balanced meals and snacks. A meal of this sort should include protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre to help keep your blood sugar balanced.
Additionally, eating a meal or snack within two hours of exercising should give you the energy you need for a headache-free run.
Great examples of food before running include; whole grains, oats, nuts, yogurt, bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, legumes, starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes) and fruit (such as bananas). If you’re an avid early morning runner then snacks such as a banana or a handful of nuts should stop you from suffering low blood sugar levels without making you feel uncomfortably full.
For more ideas on what food you should incorporate into your pre-workout routine, check our our shortlist of the 37 best foods for energy - with such a selection, there is certainly options for all flavour palettes.
#4 - Take Snacks With You
If you’re worried about getting a headache when running or experiencing other low blood sugar level symptoms, then we strongly encourage that you take glucose or energy running gels to fuel your workout.
These can conveniently fit into a small pocket in your running gear and quickly replenish carbohydrates.
Alternatively, we have a great list of the best energy bars to boost your workout that can easily be transported in a running jacket pocket or small bag.
This is particularly good for avoiding a headache after running a long distance and to keep up your performance! If you don’t like gels, you can give your energy levels a boost by taking dried fruit, energy bars, protein shakes or sweets on your run.
#5 - Check Your Posture
If you have put the cause of your running headache down to poor posture then you may want to consider a session with a personal trainer to examine where you might be holding tension and ways in which you can break your bad habits and better your form.
The benefits of good posture far exceed our running performance, and ensuring our body is supported equally is essential to our every day mobility and health.
Incorporating yoga, pilates or strength training exercises can help with alignment of the spine and overall flexibility, or for a more simple solution, invest in a specialist pair of running trainers that ensures you receive the right support and protection needed during this form of exercise.
It’s much harder to have good running form on a treadmill than outside on solid ground, however, to prevent a headache after running on a treadmill we suggest you try running in the middle of the treadmill, leaning forward, keeping your hands close to your heart and ensuring your space is free from headphone wires.
#6 - Check The Weather Beforehand
Although we can’t do much about the weather, being prepared can at least help you manage a headache during running. Wearing sunglasses, planning a well-shaded route, investing in a quality running cap for men and women and drinking plenty of water will help with hot temperatures and sunlight related headaches.
If you know you are sensitive to headaches and are often triggered by weather changes, check the weather, humidity and pressure levels prior to venturing out on your run. Overactivity can make a tension headache after running worse, so running on a different day or taking the shorter route may be a better option for you, or make sure you have pain killers at the ready.
#7 - Get Enough Sleep
We know this is a lot easier said than done, but there is a long list of reasons why sleep is so good for our overall health.
Getting into a good routine that provides you with seven to nine hours of sleep can help to ward off a headache after running, as sleep is essential for your body and mind to recharge and stay healthy. Without enough sleep, the brain cannot function properly.
The better rested you are, the better your mind and body function, and this includes in fitness related activities. Getting enough sleep can not only give you more energy and strength to maximise your workout, but it offers a numbe rof benefits to our concentration, mood, andenable us to focus more.
In order to promote a better sleeping pattern which could in turn reduce the chances of headaches after running occuring, we suggest you try going to bed and getting up at the same time each day to encourage a more structured routine. Your sleeping environment should be as restful as possible; keep your bedroom clean, dark, quiet and give yourself an hour of screen-free time before sleeping.
Running at night is specifically said to benefit your quality of sleep, so you may want to switch around your routine and see if running in the evening and getting a better nights sleep in turn puts an end to your running headaches.
The best runners are those always looking to better themselves and their performance, maybe even try out new styles of running or running in new environments. For ways in which you can switch up your running routine, why not check out the following reads for inspiration:
- 19 Best Running Challenges, Races & Events
- Long Distance Running: 21 Tips, Benefits and Risks
- How To Train For A Marathon (The Complete Guide)
When Should I Worry About A Headache After Running?
In order to best help us understand the causes, treatments and preventions, it’s important to determine what kind of headache you are experiencing to begin with.
As we mentioned earlier on in the article, headache disorders are split into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary headaches, such as migraines, are often triggered by overactivity, coughing, hormones and lifestyle choices such as alcohol, lack of sleep, skipping meals or stress. They make up 98% of all headaches and are what most people will be suffering with when reporting a headache.
Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports state that primary headaches are most commonly caused by strenuous exercise. It can be a headache during running or immediately after exercise and last up to 48 hours, sometimes in two headache episodes, and are often throbbing head pain. While inconvenient, primary headaches are fairly common and shouldn't be a cause for concern; they will heal themselves over a short period of time and you can return to all normal activities once they have eased.
Secondary headaches, on the other hand, occur as a result of an underlying medical condition. This could be a neck injury, sinus infection or more serious conditions such as heart disease and brain tumor.
Whole secondary headaches are rare, it is important to recognise them as a potential cause of headaches after running as they may be serious or indicate a life threatening condition. For example, if you frequently experience headache and nausea after running, check in with your doctor to rule out any underlying problems.
Common red flag symptoms of secondary headaches are: thunderclap headache (an intense and exploding onset), persistent morning headaches, nausea or vomiting, headaches that get worse over a period of time, dizziness, neck stiffness, and vision issues.
If you experience any of these other symptoms alongside frequent headaches, we urge you to consult your doctor or a medical proffesional.
Does Running Make Headaches And Migraines Worse?
While we have explored the causes of a headache that occurs after running, we have not yet addressed how running can affect existing headaches unrelated to exercise, and whether if this is something that can be made worse by engaging in running or working out.
Although high-intensity and strenuous exercise such as running can sometimes trigger migraines and headaches, there is evidence to suggest that regular exercise can in fact decrease the frequency and duration of head pain.
The Journal of Headache and Pain published a report on the effect of aerobic exercise on the number of migraine days, duration and pain intensity, which took a subject group of patients who siffer from frequent migraines and subscribed them with aerobic exercise as a treatment option.
The results from the study showed a significant reduction in the number of migraine days that patients suffered with, as well as small to moderate reductions in migraine duration and pain intensity. This stands as sufficient evidence that running can in fact reduce symptoms and occurances of headaches and migraines.
Furthermore, the American Migraine Foundation strongly encourages a regular exercise routine to help the body to release endorphins, which are the body’s ‘happy hormones’ and natural painkillers.
Running can also help to reduce stress and encourage better sleep, both of which are closely linked with causing headaches if they are not managed. Therefore by engaging in exercise and promoting a better sleeping routine, you are in turn reducing the chances of headaches arising.
If you find that your headaches after running only occur after you have ran a particularly long distance, then we suggest you may want to reduce your milage but increasing the frequency of how many runs you participate in a week in order to best ward off headaches whilst building up endurance.
Why Do I Get A Headache After Running On A Treadmill?
If you experience regular headaches after running on a treadmill more specifically, it's likely this will be combined with other symptoms including feelings of dizziness and disorientation. This happens as treadmills involve continuous movement and when stepping off the machine, it creates an illusion that our body is still moving.
This experience is called 'vertigo' and can cause other symptoms such as: a headache, nausea, sensitivity to light and dizziness. Running on a treadmill may cause a headache as your brain thinks that you are moving forward in space, but your body is actually staying in the same spot, causing a body and brain disconnect and may result in head pain and dizziness.
To avoid a headache after running on a treadmill, we recommend slowing down gradually as you approach the end of your run and reduce your speed until you reach a slow walk. You can also try focussing on one stationary object throughout the duration of your run.
Additionally, headaches after running on a treadmill can also be avoided by ensuring you drink enough fluid before, during and after your workout, just as it is when engaging in any form of exercise.
Vertigo can last from just a few seconds to a timespan of a number of hours, however it should get better without treatment and medical attention. If you're eager to shake the symptoms of vertigo, you can ease symptoms by going to a quiet, dark room to sit down until it stops, similarly to how you would treat a generic migraine. This should ease the discomfort of a headache and nausea after running.
Otherwise, the same running headache causes we’ve explored apply to wherever and whatever surface you run on! For example, dehydration, exertion and low blood sugar levels can still affect you if running on a treadmill.
If, however, you find that your running headache is less likely to occur when you perform your workout on a treadmill, then why not consider investing in one so your workout is never inconvenienced again? Here we have provided you with a shortlist of the 17 best treadmills to get you in shape.
Before You Go!
If you are worried about frequent headaches and other symptoms, always consult your doctor to be on the safe side. Keeping a headache diary and noting down when you experience head pain can also help you notice potential triggers.
We hope that our headache after running causes and tips will stop any head pain from ruining your workout. Remember, don’t over do it, stay hydrated, eat up, check your posture, and watch out for environmental changes that may exacerbate headaches. Ensuring you are prepared can stop you from suffering a headache from running!
But if you feel as though you’re already at the peak of your fitness game, then perhaps a career as a personal trainer might be your next step.
OriGym’s REPS and CIMSPA certified personal training courses offer unparalleled flexibility and support for you and your newfound fitness career.
Sound interesting? Download our FREE comprehensive prospectus, and read more about what we offer, plus how it could be right for you.
Download Your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme
Written by Professional S & C Coaches
- Parth Upadhyaya, Arathi Nandyala, and Jessica Ailani, Primary Exercise Headache. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports (2020). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7160088/.
- M. G. Spigt, E. C. Kuijper, C. P. van Schayck, J. Troost, P. G. Knipschild, V. M. Linssen, J. A. Knottnerus, Increasing the daily water intake for the prophylactic treatment of headache: a pilot trial. European Journal of Neurology (2005). Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-1331.2005.01081.x.
- Karen N Hufnagl and Stephen J Peroutka, Glucose regulation in headache: implications for dietary management. Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics (2002). Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1586/14737188.8.131.521.
- Dean H Watson and Particia H Trott, Cervical headache: an investigation of natural head posture and upper cervical flexor muscle performance. Cephalalgia (1993). Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.1468-2982.1993.1304272.x.
- Professor Amanda Ellison, Can bad weather really cause headaches? Durham University (2021). Available at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/news/newsitem/?itemno=44499.
- Parth Upadhyaya, Arathi Nandyala and Jessica Ailani, Primary Exercise Headache. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports (2020). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7160088/.
- Faisal Mohammad Amin, The association between migraine and physical exercise. The Journal of Headache and Pain (2018). Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s10194-018-0902-y.