A blog by runners. For runners.

Headaches from running: causes and treatments

headache from runningSettling on a training plan, making travel arrangements for destination races, and just fitting runs into our busy schedules – it’s normal for running to make our heads spin from time to time. However, if running actually gives you a headache that’s a cause for concern.

For most runners, running eases headaches and other pains thanks to endorphins and increased blood flow to the head. So, if you’re experiencing headaches during or after a run, it’s not something you should ignore. Sometimes exercise-induced headaches can be easily fixed, but other times they’re a sign of a more serious health problem.

Here are common culprits of running-induced headaches:

  • Poor posture. A lot of us suffer from poor posture – sitting at a desk typing all day or looking down at a phone to text often doesn’t help. So, it’s typical for that poor posture to continue when running. This can bring on headaches, though. Be mindful not to slouch and hunch your shoulders forward when you run. Here’s more on proper running form.
  • Tense shoulders. On the same note, it’s not unusual for runners to tense the muscles in their shoulders, chest, neck, and face when running. But doing so can spark tension headaches. Take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back down your spine, and try to keep your upper body and face relaxed during runs.
  • Tight headgear. A tight ponytail, headband, or hat can cause head pain as well. Try running with looser headgear and see if that solves your headache mystery.
  • Low blood sugar. Symptoms of low blood sugar include headaches, dizziness, and weakness. Luckily, low blood sugar can be avoided by changing up your prerun nutrition strategy. Try eating a snack immediately before a run and see how you fair.
  • Dehydration. One of the first signs of dehydration is a headache. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after running – and more liquids on hot or humid days. Get the lowdown onrunners’ hydration needs here.
  • High blood pressure. Sharp spikes in blood pressure can cause painful headaches. This is not a problem you want to try to solve on your own, though. High blood pressure is a serious medical concern, so see your doctor. High blood pressure can often be successfully managed with lifestyle changes and sometimes medication.
  • Migraines. Running is usually a good thing – it does wonders for our health, mind, and body. But for some people exercise brings on migraines. This doesn’t mean you need to hang up your running shoes if running is a migraine trigger for you, though. Devoting more time to your warm-up, slowly easing into your run, and cooling down afterwards may help. Sudden, intense exercise is more likely trigger migraines. Also, be mindful to your water intake and stay hydrated.

The bottom line: If making tweaks to your form, headgear, or fueling routine doesn’t ease your headaches, see your doctor to get to the root of the problem.

Written by Jen Matz.