By Jo Ann LeQuang
Exercise can make you sick. Overall, exercise has many benefits, but for some of us, exercise causes headaches. Exercise headache is defined as a headache that comes on either during or immediately after strenuous exercise. No one knows exactly what causes exercise headache, but the prevailing theory is that exercise causes a surge of blood to flow to the head, dilating the blood vessels outside the skull. These engorged blood vessels can bring on moderate to severe pain, in what experts call a “vascular headache.” There are more than 100 different types of headache and many familiar headaches are vascular: migraine and cluster, for example. It is thought that exercise headache is a kind of vascular headache induced by sudden and strenuous physical exertion.
If you have a history of headaches, particularly the vascular kind, you may be at risk for getting an exercise headache. And even if you aren’t a migraine sufferer, you may still have had an exercise headache. Even if you are prone to exercise headaches, this does not mean that you can never exercise. In fact, clinical studies have shown that regular exercise actually reduces headache in chronic headache sufferers. But those prone to exercise headaches have to be smart about how exercise. Forget the boot camps, extreme workouts, ultra-marathons, and crash diets. People who get exercise headaches have to take a different approach.