Tuesday 23 January 2018

Pat Henry on how to combat workout-induced headaches

Pat Henry: if you get a headache, take a break for about 20 minutes.
Pat Henry: if you get a headache, take a break for about 20 minutes.

Rarely a day goes by without one or more of our clients at the gym complaining that they have a mild or severe headache.

It can be a sudden, throbbing pain on both sides of the head - possibly during a run or a workout - and in some cases dizziness or vomiting may follow.

We always suggest stopping whatever you are doing and taking a break for about 20 minutes. Most of the time the headaches are harmless. Even so, it's always best to err on the side of caution.

I've learned to know the difference between mild pains to severe tightness from your forehead to the back of your head.

A mild headache can be triggered from intense workout, or even running - especially in hot, humid conditions.

Most clients find it hard to coordinate their breathing, often holding their breath during exertion. If you don't exhale when you're pushing or pulling a weight, you'll build up pressure in your head.

It's really important to get your breathing pattern correct.

For example, when doing squats, inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. Use plenty of breath while exhaling.

If you continue to hold your breath you can feel dizzy and even pass out, which is not ideal if you are holding a heavy weight.

A lack of hydration can also contribute to your headaches.

If headaches are severe, it's time to get checked out and get to the bottom of the problem. Don't let it drag on and don't confuse headaches with migraines.

Exercise-induced headaches come on fast and definitely don't last as long as migraines.

One alternative therapy that is very successful is acupuncture.

It's just another way of increasing the energy flow within the body. All exercise increases blood flow; the more vigorous the movement, the more the blood flow will increase. Research shows that those who have regular Ki massage, reflexology and acupuncture, and also watch their diet, have practically no headaches or neck tension.

For example, one company we worked with last week treated their staff to a 10-minute head massage during work hours with great success.

Sitting at a desk, working on a computer all day, builds up pressure in the head and neck. So why not treat yourself to an invigorating head massage?

You could also have a complete one-hour Ki massage, which works on the whole body; legs, hips, back, shoulders...

It should be invigorating and similar to a good workout where all the muscles are worked.

Or, if you prefer a more relaxing massage, just ask the therapist. They will know the tension spots in your body and they will adapt their technique accordingly.

Some tips to help:


Most headaches will disappear within 15 minutes after drinking water slowly.


Put a cold towel on your forehead or back of your neck. Medics say that the chill can constrict the blood vessels.

Ki massage

Having a massage on a regular basis will relieve ongoing headaches. Also, use pressure points on the base of your skull or forehead and try circular motions with your thumbs for five minutes while sitting.


Tension of the jaw muscles can also contribute to headaches. One simple exercise to relieve symptoms involves putting a pencil or pen between your teeth - but don't bite it - for two minutes. It will help relax the facial muscles.


Consider using acupuncture as a complementary therapy.


Avoid junk food at all costs. Likewise, avoid all sugary drinks and high caffeine content, especially before bed. Alcohol intake should also be monitored.

Medical advice

If headaches persist, get checked out by a doctor immediately.

That sudden, throbbing pain can sap your energy and bring training to a halt, but focussing on breathing, hydration and relaxation can help prevent it, writes Pat Henry

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