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How to Prevent an Exercise-Induced Migraine

Sometimes a good workout can end badly when you develop an exercise-induced migraine headache. Some of these headaches are caused by the physical exertion of the body during exercise, while others are caused by the sudden drop of blood sugar brought on by intense physical activity. Identifying which is the trigger for your exercise-induced headaches will help you decide what will work best to prevent them.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Warm up. Warming up before exercise is a critical step in any exercise program, but it is especially important to prevent migraines after exercising because it allows your body to slowly work up to an active level, and it can help prevent muscle soreness, which can further complicate or provoke a migraine later on.

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Begin slowly. According to Sue Dyson, author of "Migraines a Natural Approach," some doctors believe migraines after exercising may be the result of the shock of sudden activity on the body 1. Therefore, easing the body into activity beyond the warm-up can help further lower the chance of an exercise-induced migraine.

Stay hydrated. Your body will react poorly to any kind of stress or strain when it is dehydrated, and migraine sufferers will find that staying well hydrated may help in and out of the gym.

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Choose less forceful or lower-impact exercises. Weightlifting seems to be more likely to cause migraines, and some believe this is because of the stopping involved in the exercise since this movement can cause the blood vessels in the head to dilate. No matter what form of exercise you have been doing, you can try to switch to something less strenuous.

Keep a regular exercise schedule. According to a study published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology, doctors found that a sudden cessation of an exercise program caused an increase in migraine episodes, and that exercise-induced migraines were also more frequent when they began their exercise routine again.

Eat a full meal within an hour after exercising. Be sure this meal includes proteins and starches to help raise your blood sugar back up to normal levels.

Take some preventative medication before exercising. Try taking some ibuprofen first, but if this does not help, you can move to a stronger medication recommended by your doctor. You can also try taking a glucose tablet before exercising if you suspect that your migraines are due to the drop in blood sugar caused by exercising.

Cool down. Just as the beginning of an exercise session can be a shock to the system, the end can be as well, so taper your exercise off slowly to prevent more shock to the system.


Don't stop exercising because of the headaches. Though it seems ironic, exercising appears to actually help keep migraines from occurring on a regular basis.


Severe headaches from exercising can be a sign of some serious trouble. If you experience extreme headaches, or experience the headache for the first time but you have not changed your exercise regimen, be sure to see your doctor.