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Headache While Lifting

A Power and Bulk poster is experiencing the recent onset of headaches while doing max effort lifting and wants to know what's causing them and whether he should be concerned.

He asks:

Anybody out there ever experience a headache during max efforts and high intensity GPP stuff? If so, did you figure out what it was? Did it resolve on its own or did you seek a doc's advice? This is a new development for me (it began last week). I'm a little concerned...

I have noticed this week that I can affect/decrease the severity by breathing more during the lift but I'll need more practice to get some kind of system down. I'm thinking it has to be related to blood pressure and I was thinking of seeing a Doc for it; thoughts of an about to burst aneurism have me a bit concerned. That's got to be just mild panic though (nervous LOL)...

Fit, could be stronger, healthy diet, happily married, resting HR in the 40s, resting BP ~120/70. Sleep's fucked up and has been for years - I'm a fireman - but I take naps when I'm off duty when I need to.

Some possible causes are suggested:

I get them when I've eaten too much salt beforehand (maybe french fries during lunch and then a workout in the evening) or if I haven't been drinking enough water. I was surprised to find that my headaches went away just by drinking more water.

Holding my breath during max effort gave me massive headaches. I've trained myself to let air out slowly through my mouth; it was difficult at first because it felt like I was losing tightness in my torso.

See a doc!

I don't think any of us are qualified to give advice like that. It's probably nothing but don't leave it to chance.

Blood pressure was the first thing I thought of but you thought of that. What do you do for conditioning that brings it on? Another thing is tension or other trouble in the neck and tarps, this general area seems to cause headaches. I have asked chiropractors to explain how but I did not follow their explanations. Still I have seen it happen so many times though, even with people that don't exercise, I am convinced there's a connection.

I get them too. Have been for years now. The things I notice. Holding my breath, that used to cause them big time. Kind of cured that by simply opening my mouth a bit when I lift. Front Squats knock my brains out. I must be a messed up unit somehow on these. With a regular bar out of the rack in a front squat it feels like someone is driving a 12inch spike through my head. This happens even with light weights like 225lbs. Thank goodness fro my saftey squat bar. I was just testing the feel of it and tried the front squats with it. I loaded it up 340lbs and just walked out with it and absolutley no pain whatsoever. Strange thing is that I can do cleans in the same position and never feel this one time.

I also get the stress headaches at times from heavy lifting. I can massage the base of my skull and it helps instantly. I never get normal headaches though. All my headaches are exercise induced.

When I press overhead with a log and heavy band tension. I get these exertion headaches a lot. It feels like someone stabbed me in the head but in 30-60 seconds its gone. As soon as I quit that movement it stops. I'm sure its from elevated BP plus crushing my head back as far as it will go.

Tight tarp / upper back muscles gave me the same type of piercing headaches when i squatted / ohp years ago. If you get the headaches and the pain seems located just above your ears aka temples then i'll bet thats your problem. Stick your finger hard into your tarps (lots of spots) and see if its tender as and if you get headaches. Crap posture will add to the problem as well. I just got all the knots taken out by a physio and have been 100% ever since.

A follow-up:

Saw a doc yesterday. He was very concerned. Today I have an appointment to get a contrast CT scan. Whoa. He thought it might be new onset migraines of some sort but he was also concerned due to their sudden beginning while lifting that it could be an aneurism.

Guess I'd rather kow than not know. Keepin' my fingers crossed...

Contrast CT came back negative. Whew. Looking like new onset exercise induced migraines or some shit. Which I have to say is nicer than a bursting vein in my head. Will have to work through/with it.

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i just started getting these headaches too, has me very very concerned. My breathing sucks....which i understand why i could get the headache from exercise, but recently they have been happening when i had my orgasm from sex yesterday.....complety fucked me up....

called doc today and set me up with a MRA scan on my head....

he told me they are not anything to worry about unless they are sudden and have not had them before, i told him this was bran new to me which got him concerened too....

Note: to the original poster, can u email me and let me know whats going on with your headahces? doc visit etc? im trying to figure out exacttly what else ill need to do

mike aka mm107
elitefitness.com

Glad to hear it was not an aneurism. This happened to me just a couple of days ago and I was a little nervous about it. I would like to talk to you a little mor. Coul you please e-mail me? Thanks

Teresa Setzer wrote:
Glad to hear it was not an aneurism. This happened to me just a couple of days ago and I was a little nervous about it. I would like to talk to you a little more. Could you please e-mail me? Thanks setzer1@graceba.net

I got a sharp pain in my head near from my temple to my left ear after accidently held my breath and pushed pressure to my head on a leg press. I adjust the seat higher then normall and didn't expect the difference in difficulty when raised. It hurt for an 1/2 hour then I just left. I went to do shoulders today and it hurt when I went heavy.. I am planning to just do cardio this week, but just nervous.. Don't want to see a doctor really, just hope its no big deal and take it easy for a week. any advice feel free to email lv2freebass@yahoo.com 7/7/08 thanks

My training partner and I train in his garage.On some days, when it is really hot outside, I'll get a headache on ME lifts, which goes away in an hour or so after my workout. We sip water during the workout and have a fan going but I still feel the heat effects.

mike wrote:
i just started getting these headaches too, has me very very concerned. My breathing sucks....which i understand why i could get the headache from exercise, but recently they have been happening when i had my orgasm from sex yesterday.....complety fucked me up....

called doc today and set me up with a MRA scan on my head....

he told me they are not anything to worry about unless they are sudden and have not had them before, i told him this was bran new to me which got him concerened too....

Note: to the original poster, can u email me and let me know whats going on with your headahces? doc visit etc? im trying to figure out exacttly what else ill need to do

mike aka mm107
elitefitness.com

The same thing was happening to me about a year ago. I had several severe headaches after deadlifting that went away after a few minutes. Then one day I had one that faded away over several hours. For the next week I got headaches after only mild exertion. It interfered with sex and lifting so I decided to get it checked out. I spent $5000 on an MRI just to find out I had nothing to worry about.

They are called exertional headaches. The symptoms are similar to aneurysm and your physician will likely recommend and MRI. Then they let you know you are okay and send you a bill. I received absolutely no advice from my doctor on how to prevent them. What a help!

This is how I made them stop:

1. Lost weight and lowered my blood pressure with a combination of diet and cardio.

2. Stopped holding my breath in the gym. Breathe out when lifting, inhale when lowering. Anyone who disagrees doesn't know what we are talking about. My headaches were so bad I couldn't see straight. If you have headaches like that, don't hold your breath. If not, do what you like.

3. For a while I took an ibuprofen every day before lifting, but I don't need it anymore.

4. I always make certain I am fully hydrated in the gym. I drink water between every set.

It's a well-known medical phenomenon called "Weight lifter's cephalgia" (cephalgia is just latin for "headache"). If you google this term you'll find lots more information, but basically it's benign (if you don't mind the searing pain, of course).

As always, consult your doctor to rule out anything more serious...

Guys its just called exertion headaches, get a proper breathing routine down, and it should decrease dramatically, breath out on the intense part of any excersice (i.e. squating breath in going down, breath out going up.) Should be done in every excersice you do. They can be dangerous, if they proceed. Drink a decent amount of water, and breath regularly but if they are medium-severe after breathing reguarly you should go see a doctor. I've had them, but they went away. Breathing is always the key gentlemen in any power/strength training program.