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Ask Hina: Why am I getting headaches when I run?

Hey guys it’s Hina from Rebalance. Today I want to talk to all of you experiencing headaches before or after running or from after playing intense sports.

I was experiencing pretty significant headaches after I ran and they would last a day to a day and a half if I didn’t take anything, such as Advil. It turned out, there was a very simple reason why.

Here are four common reasons why you’re experiencing headaches after running:

1. Dehydration:

Your body needs lots of water. When you’re running, you’re sweating and water in your body is releasing. You need to replenish what you sweat out.

A common mistake people make is drinking sports drink. In our next post, Elayne will explain why, in most cases, you should skip the sports drink, unless you are running many many miles and choose water instead.

2. Blood sugar:

It’s possible your blood sugar isn’t staying balanced. If you go run or play sports and you haven’t had an adequate amount of food, that can lead to dizziness and headaches.

Don’t just eat simple carbs – have carbs with protein to keep something called the glycemic index low.  Examples of low glycemic index snack would be a handful of nuts or fruit paired with a protein such as some type of nut butter.  That will help stabilize your blood sugar.

3. Electrolyte deficiency:

This is where most people think about drinking a sports drink. It’s misconceiving to think that you’ll need a sports drink after you run. You actually may not need a sports drink unless you’re going for a really long run as I mentioned earlier.

Turns out that I was depleting an important electrolyte that was causing my headaches. I was drinking plenty of water and sports drinks, but what ended up helping my headaches was drinking chicken broth.  Really chicken broth?  YES!

I had just run five miles and got an intense headache that was not going away for a few hours.   Just so happened there was a stand that was serving chicken broth.  For some reason that sounded good to me.  After I drank it, I immediately felt my headache diminishing.  I figured out the reason the chicken broth helped and turned out it was from the SALT.

I was losing salt from my body through my run. That was enough to deplete my sodium levels which changed the electrolyte balance in my body.

So, instead of reaching for a sports drink, think about reaching for something salty. You can use salt tabs, but something as simple as chicken or vegetable broth or a handful of pretzels might do the trick.

4. Postural Changes:

When you run, you’re using your whole body. If you know your form might be off or you’re having shoulder or neck pain, then you might be using muscles that are imbalanced.

There are many muscles that attach from just under the service of your skin to others that attach deep into your spine.   Your mid back, shoulder, shoulderblades, neck and head muscles all work together as finely tuned unit.  If there is imbalance then there will be compensation from some of the muscles  especially ones that attach to your scull that become right from overworking  and others such as those in the mid back that weaken. If you have postural changes when you run, those muscles that are overworking can tense and develop spasms called trigger points. When those trigger points become active and painful they can set off a headache.

How can physical therapy help?

If you’re experiencing headaches and you’ve tried the first three items without success then your headaches might be coming from postural issues. It’s important to be evaluated by a holistic, integrative physical therapist who can treat your whole body to determine the issue and what can be done about it. To visit us at Rebalance, you can schedule a complimentary phone consultation to discuss your symptoms here.

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