Sports Medicine
A Crucial Period
Good Pain, Bad Pain
On Your Knees
Secondary Injuries
Imaging Technology
What's Sciatica?
The Female Athlete
Putting Your Feet First
Itis Schmitis
Too Much, Too Soon
Under the Influence
What's Goin' On?
Think Inches, Not Pounds
Preventing Vaginitis
That Painful Pull
Athlete's Heart
Exercise & Arthritis
Chilled to the Bone
Measuring Body Fat
Exercise and Your Breasts
Choosing a Sports Doctor
Lean on Me (Shoulder)
Exercise & Anemia
Exercise Abuse
Pelvis Sighting
Hand Aid
It's All in the Wrist
Back in Action
Altitude Adjustment
Tennis Elbow, Anyone?
Exercising in the Heat
Agony of the Feet<
Restless Legs
Night Time Cramps
Birth Control Concerns
No Periods, No Babies?
Post Partum Prescription
Weight Loss Mystery
Undesirable Cooldown
To Brew Or Not To Brew
Fitness After Baby
Biking and Back Pain
Swimmer's Shoulder
A Hidden Athlete
Avoiding Osteoporosis
Drug Testing
Maximum Heart Rate
Headway Against Headaches
Torn Rotator Cuff
Fat Figures
Bloody Urine
Sag Story
Lackluster Leg
Bothersome Bulge
Gaining in Years
Taking It On the Shin
Aching Ankles
Hoop Help
Tender Toes
Meals For Muscle
Growing Pains
Hot Tips
High Altitude PMS
Personal Bests
Air Pollution
Ankle Blues
Heartbreak Heel
Yeast Relief

Making Headway Against Exercise Headaches

Thorny Throb

Q: I am a 42-year-old woman in relatively good health. Two or three times a week I work out for an hour to an hour and a half with fitness machines, weights, running, and cycling. I have a problem with headaches that appear after my longer bike rides over two hours at a pretty good pace.

I usually develop a headache anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half after I stop riding. I tried drinking colder drinks while riding and patting my face, neck, and forehead with a cloth dipped in ice water; which seemed to help a little.

My sister also mentioned she gets "post-exercise" headaches. Would women be more prone to this than men for some reason? (My husband rides, too, and never suffers from headaches.)

Houston, TX

A: Exercise-related headaches are fairly common and occur through a wide range of sports; from running, weight-lifting, and bicycling to contact sports such as soccer, boxing, and football. Most headaches that are not trauma-related are referred to as exertional, or effort headaches.

The precise cause is not known, but a great deal of suspicion has been cast upon sustained muscular tension in the head and neck. This may be particularly true in your case because your headaches come after long bike rides when your head is held horizontally to the ground.

The average head weighs around 11 pounds, about the same as a bowling ball. Take a bowling ball or the equivalent and hold it over your head with your arms straight. Compare that with holding the bowling ball straight out in front of you.

This is similar to the position you are holding your head in during the two-hour bicycle rides. The muscle tension involved restricts blood flow and causes muscle spasms in the neck and scalp, resulting in a headache. Clenching your teeth may also lead to headache by the same mechanism. Relaxing your jaw and varying your head and hand position on your ride may reduce some of the tension.

The pain-spasm cycle leads to stiffness and weakness of the neck muscles, and you may end up with a neck like a 39-cent chicken. You can tell if your headache is a muscle tension headache by massaging your neck and scalp feeling for pressure points-knots of extreme pain.

What can you do to prevent these headaches?

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Foreword: Billie Jean King

Comments by Barb Harris
Editor in Chief,
Shape Magazine

General Health
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The information in this web site is for educational purposes only and is not providing medical or professional advice. It should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. If you have or suspect you might have any health problems, you should consult a physician.

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