Why do I get a headache when I exercise after a concussion?

Why do I get a headache when I exercise after a concussion?
Why do I get a headache when I exercise after a concussion?

Exercise-induced headaches following a concussion are a relatively common but often distressing symptom.

These headaches are part of the broader range of symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome (PCS), a condition that can affect individuals for weeks or months after the initial head injury.

While exercise is generally considered beneficial for recovery, it can sometimes trigger or exacerbate headaches in individuals recovering from a concussion.

Here’s what you should know about exercise-induced headaches after a concussion:

1. Causes:

  • Vasodilation: Doctors think that exercise can cause an increase in blood flow and vasodilation in the brain, potentially triggering headaches.
  • Exertion: Strenuous physical activity can strain neck and shoulder muscles, which are often involved in tension-type headaches, another common symptom in PCS.
  • Dehydration: Exercise can lead to dehydration, which can contribute to headaches. Dehydration can be more pronounced in individuals with concussions who may have altered thirst perception.

2. Types of Headaches:

  • Migraine-like: Some individuals with post-concussion syndrome experience headaches with migraine-like features, such as throbbing pain, light sensitivity, and nausea.
  • Tension-type: Tension-type headaches characterize a dull, aching pain often triggered by muscle tension. Exercise can also worsen these headaches.

3. Management:

  • Consult a Healthcare Professional: Before resuming exercise or physical activity, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider who specializes in concussion management. They can evaluate your specific situation and recommend an appropriate plan.
  • Gradual Return to Exercise: In many cases, a gradual and controlled return to exercise is recommended. This involves starting with low-intensity activities and gradually increasing the duration and intensity as tolerated.
  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated before, during, and after exercise can help reduce the risk of headaches.
  • Pacing: It’s essential to listen to your body and pace yourself during exercise. Overexertion can worsen symptoms.
  • Avoiding Triggers: Identifying specific triggers for your headaches, such as certain exercises or environmental factors, can help you make informed choices about your physical activities.
  • Medication: In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe medication to manage exercise-induced headaches or other persistent symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome.

Remember that each person’s experience with post-concussion symptoms, including exercise-induced headaches, can be unique.

What works for one individual may not work for another.

Therefore, personalized evaluation and guidance from a healthcare professional with expertise in concussion management are essential to tailor a treatment plan that best suits your needs and promotes a safe and effective recovery.

Treatment options for Concussion

Specialized physical therapy treatment can assist in improving symptoms associated with headaches following a concussion. A systematic approach of orthopedic, vestibular rehabilitation, sensorimotor re-training and progressive aerobic exercise is usually necessary to alleviate symptoms.

At PhysioFit of NC, we have the expert team to help you to the fullest.

We provide a comprehensive treatment approach through our Concussion Recovery Program.   The primary goal of treatment is to address the underlying issues causing post-concussive syndrome.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today so we can help you!