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5016 Views 10 Replies Latest reply: Sep 7, 2012 3:14 PM by Catherine89203
PaintingLady Legend 906 posts since
Dec 12, 2009
Currently Being Moderated

Aug 24, 2012 11:37 AM

Headache after long run

I'm currently training for a marathon in January, 2013 and am up to 13 miles on long run. After each long run, I develop a dull headache that last the remainder of the day, irregardless of the # of ibuprophen I take, and I have to sleep it off. I'm not bothered w/ headache after shorter 4-5 mile runs, but anything over 10 seems to set one off. I do an easy 1:1 run:walk ratio to keep speed and hear rate down. I drink plenty of fluid (water & gatoraide) during run, a couple of ounces per mile, alternating water, water, ga.  I consume 4  jellybeans about every 3 miles. Rehydrate well  after run w/ water and a recovery shake or chocolate milk. I wear a hat and try to run in the cooler part of the morning.

Prior to menopause (I'm a 61 yo female) I suffered w/ severe migraines, and one of the main triggers was heat, as my body did not sweat, therefore my body did not cool itself adequately.  I do not have that problem now, and sweat much more than is proper for a southern lady.

The headache doesn't start until about an hour after the run.

Any suggestions as to the cause and ways to aleve or avoid will be appreciated.

Marie from Tennessee

Training for Disney 2013 Goofy Challenge.....Yes, I'm certifiably CRAZY!

61 year olds must be out of their minds to run a half marathon followed by a full the next day!

Disney Half Marathon 1/7/2012 2:37:59

Bear Hunt 5K 9/24/11 28:28 pb

Trojan Trek Trail 5K 8/6/11 31:45

Expo 10K 5/28/11 1:01:28,

Expo 10K 5/26/12 1:05:39

Eastman 10K 9/8/2012 1:01:11 pb

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1

  • skypilot77 Legend 1,077 posts since
    Dec 16, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Aug 24, 2012 11:46 AM (in response to PaintingLady)
    Headache after long run

    I called them "hungry headaches". Try eating something after your run, and see how that works

  • BOSNPM We're Not Worthy 2,482 posts since
    Nov 20, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    2. Aug 24, 2012 12:03 PM (in response to skypilot77)
    Headache after long run

    I agree with Sky, I like to drink a recovery drink after my long runs within 30 mins.  Getting some protein after a hard run is important for recovery, and LR's are hard runs.  Something with a 4-1 carb to protein ratio is prefect.  Chocolate milk will work if you like it.  Good luck

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Aug 25, 2012 2:52 PM (in response to PaintingLady)
    Headache after long run

    The reason why headaches might affect a runner after several miles is probably two-fold in your case. As the years go by, most folks tend to lose postural tone in the neck, resulting in the head being thrust slightly forward of aligning the ear over the shoulder, a rough rule of thumb for balance. This forces the Upper Trapezius to absorb the weight of the head with each footstrike, instead of the cervical spine. A couple hours of that pounding is enough to present as a magnificent tension headache when the Traps fail to unwind later. Why a headache?



    I was listening to a Dr. moderated radio show on "neck pain" the other day, and while covering all the standard issues involving structural and neurological complications, he cited one of the most common causes of tension headaches, the upper Trapezius muscle. Its tone modulates local hypertension and nerve compression. This syndrome has been studied and confirmed in medical literature for most of the last century.


    Knowing what I do now, it surprises me when many people are surprised to learn about it, or do not include the important information in discussions of neck-related issues or headaches in general. Well, I didn't know about it either until I was taught it in school. I suppose it is such a simple explanation, that it is not enough fun for highly educated medical experts to include in weighty erudition on neck maladies, or at least to give it the emphasis it deserves based on statistical relevance.


    The Upper Trapezius runs roughly from the shoulder blade to the base of the skull, and the part that tends to tighten up is in the center of that span, in the belly of the muscle. Have someone gently lean an elbow into that spot, and see if the tension, and the resulting headache, releases. It may take some practice to find the exact location, in the junction of the neck and shoulder. I've solved many a tension headache that way.


    Another item that may contribute to the problem is the use of any amount of sugar during or after runs of short to medium duration like a 10-miler. There is enough glycogen stored in your muscles and liver to comfortably last for at least two hours of intense activity, or for up to a half-day of rest. Any unnecessary carbs will need to be stored or metabolized, and the muscles would be a primary target for burning those carbs. No point in fueling a muscle that is already tense, with something that will cause it to be more metabolically active. There is plenty of time to restock glycogen with normal food later in the day.


    I agree with BOS' mention of protein, since enough of that after a run will spare you from breaking down muscle tissue for energy. I do think though that post-exercise drinks with sugar are too high a glycemic load for short to medium length runs. They absorb too quickly for anyone but athletes in extended competition who need to refuel for the next heat. Weekend warriors like us are better off without them, which is another thing I learned too late in life. The sports drink industry is trying too hard to move product to people who don't need the resulting inflammation. Helps sell more vitamin I, though.


    Back to the Traps, our world today requires a lot of fixation of the neck to focus on reading, viewing, driving, working, or whatever unnatural task requires or encourages bringing the head forward and holding it there. We tend to lean into our newspapers as we age, and lose mobility from years of being trained to watch life or work unfold on a two-dimensional piece of paper, or a screen at a fixed distance, instead of dealing fluidly with 3-dimensional space. Add stress to that (and maybe a little running), and you have a perfect storm for Trap tension.


    In short, be aware of the potential cause, cultivate the art of mitigating the effects, and avoid fueling the syndrome when it is most likely. Just one more arrow in your athletic quiver. Godspeed.

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Aug 28, 2012 7:17 AM (in response to PaintingLady)
    Re: Headache after long run

    I've had the best success eating real fruit, such as grapes, cherries and pineapple chunks, on my long runs. It's hard to beat Mother Nature when it comes to locking the sugars into cells that break down more slowly and release their sugars gradually for a low-glycemic effect. I think our bodies respond better because juices and such didn't exist until recently in our history.


    As I understand, the drinks came about when it was found that athletes in extended contests like football could last longer using the watered-down salted juice drinks. Really intense exercise depletes glycogen and salt from sweat very quickly, and there is little time to get it back with ordinary food. I think endurance athletes have a little more leeway, depending on intensity, of course.


    I've done better when I replaced the usual sports drinks with electrolytes dissolved in plain water (such as electromix) without the sugar, and when eating the chunks of fruit on the really long runs. I think that helps quell spikes and any resulting inflammation. There's water and helpful enzymes built into the whole fruit, too. Enzymes tend to break down quickly after juicing, and are best preserved in whole fruit. They help your metabolic processes.


    Good luck with your neck. It can take years to lose posture and years to train it, but exercises like neck raises when lying prone, or isometric contraction against the hands while standing are good exercises that can help. These days, we spend so much time drawing our heads forward into our work, it's hard to provide equal time the other way. Let us know if you get any benefit from these suggestions and please share. I know you are already quite generous with your time and advice. Best of luck in your marathon training as well!

  • JamesJohnsonLMT Legend 1,291 posts since
    Aug 23, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Aug 29, 2012 6:31 AM (in response to PaintingLady)
    Headache after long run

    Woops.. I forgot to add that, if the two SCM (sternocleidomastoid) muscles on the front of your neck are tight (shortened) , they will pull your head forward and resist the traps. Training the traps will be tougher in this case because the SCMs can oppose them and tire them. A good example of shortened SCMs is Bill Gates. Too much tube time.


    The "main" job of the SCM is for each to pull the head from side to side, or turning the head. You can see each SCM jump up in relief from the neck during this operation, on the opposite side from the turn. They begin on the bony lump behind the ear (mastoid process) and end on the sternum and collar bone (they split into two heads).  In addition to neck rotation, another job for the SCM is to pull the head forward when both contract at once. Their strength will trump the traps, because of their distinct mechanical advantage.


    Look in the mirror while turning your head, grab one between your fingers when you see it, and give it a squeeze to see what you find. Tight SCMs can also produce nasty migraine symptoms behind the eye, and dry coughs.

    I've found them easiest to work on when lying prone with the head projecting off the edge, or while leaning forward. This causes the traps to flex and creates a condition for the SCMs to relax. Turning the head brings them into focus, but don't press in on them, because the carotid artery is underneath. If they have excessive tone when the traps are flexed, they are active antagonists to the traps, will interfere with good posture, and set the stage for tension headaches.

  • vand6584 Rookie 2 posts since
    Dec 3, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Sep 6, 2012 5:42 AM (in response to PaintingLady)
    Re: Headache after long run

    I have a problem with headaches as well.  You meantion that you seem to be sweating more then normal?  I am also a heavy sweater.  Do you notice a lot of salt crystals when you're done?  My doctor has told me that on top of being a heavy sweater, I lose more then the average amount of salt in my sweat, compounding for a large loss of sodium in my long workouts.  He has recommended upping my salt intake on days before my runs, and to make sure I get enough back in my system right after runs.  This may be part of your issue as well?

  • bertakatie1084 Rookie 1 posts since
    Jan 8, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    9. Sep 6, 2012 6:59 AM (in response to vand6584)
    Re: Headache after long run

    I also struggle at times w/ headaches and the muscle tension advice sounds spot on!


    also, I am in FL sweating my butt off so I take an Endurolyte (hammer stength brand) salt tab every hour I'm out.

  • Catherine89203 Rookie 1 posts since
    Jul 9, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    10. Sep 7, 2012 3:14 PM (in response to PaintingLady)
    Re: Headache after long run

    I used to get headaches after my long runs of 5 miles or more.  During my routine doctors visit, I mentioned it to the doctor and she suspected electrolyte imbalance.  Sure enough, I had severe calcium deficiancy.  After upping my calcium citrate intake, headaches are gone forever. Have you doctor draw your blood to find out if you have a electrolyte imbalance.  I was eating yogurt, drinking non-fat milk daily and it was not enough.


    Good Luck,



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