Ever Heard of an Exertion Headache Attack?

TossaBeanBag Posts: 458 Member
edited October 2014 in Fitness and Exercise
Feeling great comes and goes, doesn't it? Last night, I went to the gym feeling great, but I pushed it really hard, and I got my first exertion headache. You have to Google it if you are not familiar with it, because you definitely do not want to experience it. It will not end a great day well. LoL! But, it really isn't a laughing matter and, actually, could be life threatening. You may think you just had an aneurysm. I seriously waited to pass out, hit the floor, and die.

I was doing flies on a machine. I could only do half the stack a month ago when I started back into working out. Well, it felt pretty light, so I decided I would do a set of 10 with the whole stack. I was surprised at how much my strength had increased. At rep 9, I was struggling and pushing so hard; then, I got this incredible pain - a pounding headache that started at the back of my neck, where the muscle attaches to the skull. I thought I pulled something, but the pain fired around my whole head to the front. It was pretty bad. My first thought was, "crap, I just blew a major vessel in my brain or had an aneurysm, and I have a few moments until I pass out. Will I live? Will the people around me know what to do?" I got up, got some water, and walked around a few minutes. The pain subsided enough to finish other chest, triceps and biceps exercises. But, I didn't push it.
- It lingers this morning... just a faint reminder of the excruciating headache, last night. Just a feeling of still being sensitive in the back of my neck.

Stay healthy and work out for the long haul - not like everything depends on that one last rep.
Too bad we can't just make ourselves feel great all the time, right? I read on the internet, I should probably go see a doctor, now, and have MRIs done to let me know if it was really the exertion. I know it was the exertion because I was giving the captain all she's got. Future note, next time, I am going a little lighter and am not going to push it quite that hard. I still want to work out tomorrow.


  • jeffd247
    jeffd247 Posts: 319 Member
    My son was getting these at football practice. You definitely want to make sure you're talking to your doctor.
  • arickettsjr
    arickettsjr Posts: 32 Member
    I've only had a couple of them. Both times were after a set of squats. The first time I heard a loud pop right at the back of my head and I also thought I had an aneurysm. It's pretty scary. From what I've read I think both of them were caused by high blood pressure due to holding the valsalva maneuver for too long and not breathing out properly on the way out of the squat.
  • DjinnMarie
    DjinnMarie Posts: 1,297 Member
    I suffer from vascular migraines, which is the same mechanism behind exertion headaches. I've never had a migraine triggered through lifting though, and my migraines typically last 50 hours, followed my the lingering "soreness" for about a week. Cymbalta helps with the nerve recovery.
  • TossaBeanBag
    TossaBeanBag Posts: 458 Member
    edited October 2014
    I've only had a couple of them. Both times were after a set of squats. The first time I heard a loud pop right at the back of my head and I also thought I had an aneurysm. It's pretty scary. From what I've read I think both of them were caused by high blood pressure due to holding the valsalva maneuver for too long and not breathing out properly on the way out of the squat.

    After reading online articles and comments, it seems fairly common; especially, in those starting out, again, and in adolescents. Man, that was a little freaky to say the least. I have to go into the doctor's tomorrow, anyway. I am going to ask if he's trying to kill me - jokingly of course. He's the one who said I have to build more muscle to burn the fat. He said to lift heavy and stress those muscles more. Ironically, I have about 195 lbs of lean muscle, and my goal was to weigh about 190 in total. I have been putting on muscle each week and burning through fat. Ughh, I do not want to be a big powerlifter. Crossfit is more my style. And dead is definitely not desireable.
    - Be safe out there.
  • 13bbird13
    13bbird13 Posts: 425 Member
    edited October 2014
    I've never had that happen, but I did hurt myself once on a weight machine, one where you're seated and have to pull upwards and towards you, a bit like a rower but I don't know the name of it. I thought for quite a while I had an inguinal hernia, with horrible acid reflux and inability to wear snug waistbands; I also couldn't lie flat to sleep or lift anything heavier than about 20 pounds. I never went to a doctor (because I come from a long line of doctor-avoiders). After six months or so, no more symptoms. But I've never pushed myself on that machine since; I'm a little afraid of it even after 10+ years have passed. You do need to push yourself to get results, but the kind of results you get may not be what you really wanted!
  • Ang108
    Ang108 Posts: 1,711 Member
    Odten these headaches happen with people who are unaware of the fact that they have elevated BP. Often it is not significantly high, but just within low ranges. I would have it checked out.
    Good Luck !
  • JTick
    JTick Posts: 2,131 Member
    I've had something similar happen once. I, too, thought I was having an aneurysm. Incredibly scary. Pulled 10 reps on a deadlift...learned that I don't *need* that last rep as bad I thought I did.
  • farfromthetree
    farfromthetree Posts: 982 Member
    edited October 2014
    This is exactly what happened to me. No one seemed to know what I was talking about. It happened during push presses. It scared me to death and I nearly fell on the floor from the pain. When lifting now, I try to always maintain good form or I go down in weight. I breathe and I will never push myself like that again.

  • TossaBeanBag
    TossaBeanBag Posts: 458 Member
    With these responses, I am beginning to wonder if gender plays a role in how susceptible we are to getting them. I have never heard of it before or had it until last night.

    I think Ang108 is right about the blood pressure. I read it can skyrocket during maximum exertion as well as heart rate, too. I definitely want to be more careful, now; the next one could be an bursting blood vessel or something.
  • robinmarkz
    robinmarkz Posts: 93 Member
    edited January 2015
    I just today restarted My Fitness Pal and Map My Fitness after a terrible siege of what was diagnosed as Status Migraine late last May/early June. It was a nightmare of headaches, nausea and vomiting that lasted all summer. I spent the fall recovering.

    I am female, do computer-based work, am middle-aged, no athlete. But for almost 2 months last spring, I got on my exercise bike and pushed to go faster and longer and with increasing resistance several times a week. Even when I didn't feel that well. I used video races on YouTube to race along with. I kept pushing myself. I can be competitive and I overdid it.

    The result was a nightmare.

    Now, I am keeping it to 20 minutes of mild cardio 3 times a week. Warm up and and cool down. Also, hydration is very important. And if I feel anything, a cold compress on my head. (And if you really want to pull the blood away from your head, soak your feet in hot (not scalding) or very warm water and use a cold compress on your head at the same time.)

    If you don't take anti-inflammatory drugs, drink plain ginger tea. Or even just ginger ale. Daily.

    Also, I kicked diet sodas and any artificial sweeteners on medical advice.

    Always see your doctor about your particular situation; this happened to me. Your situation could be very different.

    But I am back! B)

    All the best,