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8973 Views 17 Replies Latest reply: Apr 8, 2012 6:31 AM by KevinDouglas 1 2 Previous Next
KevinDouglas Amateur 15 posts since
Jul 30, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Feb 22, 2012 5:45 AM

Swimming headaches >:|

Although I've searched lots of online forums about this topic, I'm hoping that someone here will have the magic answer. I have been getting terrible pressure headaches for hours following my swimwork outs and its really starting to make me dread swimming, which is a problem since its the discipline I need the most work in.


So far online I've read that the problem can be related to either: lack of hydration, lack of oxygen or goggles/swim cap being too tight. One of the first changes I made was my swim cap (latex to silicone), which made a big improvement on comfort, but hasn't stopped the headaches. I also switched from goggles to a mask (aquasphere), which has reduced how tight I need to pull the straps, but still the headaches persist.


I've been trying to drink more before and after going into the pool- its a challege to drink more while swimmingg since I try to swim continuously as much as possible to build up my stamina, but this hasn't really helped either. I don't really think this is the cause anyway since I can run long distances in hot weather on little water, so I see no reason why a <1 hr swim workout would leave me dehydrated. Finally, I don't think its a matter of not getting air since I breathe on one side and get more air than a bilateral breather.


I hate to complain, but the headches are really pretty painful and will last from the end of my am swim workout throughout my entire workday, only alleviated somewhat by advil. To make things worse, it used to be that I would get the headaches and hour or after finishing swimming, but now its gotten to the point where I am getting a headache while still in the water.


Any suggestions? Should I try a lycra cap? I hear that will put even less pressure on the head than silicone. Any other mask/goggle recommendations? It seems like this might be the problem. No matter what style I get, I need to pull the straps pretty tight to seal out the water. My head isn't particulary large (21" diameter) and I essentially shave my head bald.


Any thoughts really appreciated, thanks.


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  • tripolson Pro 75 posts since
    Oct 15, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Feb 22, 2012 10:52 AM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|



    First off, if you shave your head is there any reason to wear a swim cap?  Seems like you could eliminate one of your variables by swimming without, and a bald head shouldn't cause any more drag than a swim cap.


    I think it's unlikely that excess pressure from your cap or goggles is causing the problem.  If your headaches started when you put on the cap/goggles and lessened after you removed them, it would make more sense to suspect them as the cause.  If I understand you correctly, however, you said that at least initially, the problem started after you had already removed the gear.


    Have you considered that you may be getting sinus headaches as a result of getting water and chemicals up your nose?  I assume you're swimming in a chlorinated pool.  Does this also happen when you swim in fresh water or a saline-treated pool?  I haven't had headaches, but routinely have congested sinuses, runny nose and sneezing after swimming in a chlorinated pool.  Maybe try some nose clips and see if that lessens the problem.  Consulting with an ENT doctor might be a good idea too.


    Hope this helps. 

  • Moriates Legend 292 posts since
    Jul 19, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Feb 23, 2012 3:05 PM (in response to tripolson)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    Great point.  There are a lot of people that have an allergic reaction to pool chemicals, the humidity of the pool and also general seasonal allergies that are compounded by the pressure of your googles or cap.



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  • pacificfit Legend 147 posts since
    Jan 9, 2008
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    4. Feb 24, 2012 12:06 PM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

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  • BJ Lowe Rookie 1 posts since
    Feb 15, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    6. Feb 29, 2012 5:10 AM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    I had the same problem for many years and could not trace it to my goggles, swim cap, or chemicals (it would occur in open water as well and used to occur when I was young and took swim lessons in a lake (upper level lessons requiring long swims), where I didn't even wear goggles or swim cap).  Then I took a closer look at my breathing and found the problem.  Changing my breathing has fixed it.  Here is what I was doing wrong:  I am also a one side breather and breath every stroke.  However, I was still holding my breath under water and, essentially, exhaling insufficiently underwater or, at times, doing so quickly out of the water before I took another breath.  So, though I was breathing every time, I was still not getting enough oxygen. The headache worsened when I pushed hard because then it was even harder, with a quicker stroke, to exhale completely, making getting a full and useful breath difficult to impossilbe.  I now concentrate on blowing bubbles (exhaling) fully under water and also have found it helpful to concentrate on relaxing my muscles in my head and those connecting with breathing even when trying to push hard, mixing a full relaxing breathing process (exhaling and inhaling rhymatically and with a kind of zen-like concentration) even when going fast.  Changing this has made a world of difference. There are times when I feel a slight headache coming on and, when this happens, reminding myself about proper breathing (especially exhaling) fixes the problem.


    I hope this helps. 


  • MaryPrusa Amateur 15 posts since
    Sep 9, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Feb 29, 2012 6:40 AM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    My answer echos that of BJ Lowe.  I had/have the same problem and it all stems from my breathing.  I am also a one-side breather, taking a breath every fourth stroke.  If I breathe too shallow and don't concentrate on rhythmic breathing, I get a headache right away.  I also concentrate on relaxing my head and neck. 


    Good luck!

  • jkuck Rookie 1 posts since
    Jan 12, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Feb 29, 2012 7:19 AM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    OMG!!!!  I have been dealing with this issue for the last year!!  When I talk to people about it, they look at me like I have 2 heads!  I only get this issue when I swim, not with any other activity no matter how intense.  It doesnt matter where I swim, fresh, salt or chorinated pool, I still get them.  I have swapped out my goggles, my cap, my swiimsuit (didnt think this was the issue, but was a good excuse to get a new one), bought short flippers, and have practiced differrent breathing "techniques", none of which have solved the issue.  Doesnt matter how hard I swim (although the headaches are definately worse when I swim hard).  Usually about 20 min into my swim workout, here comes the headache and if I push thru it, the headache becomes so bad it feels like my head will explode and I get so dizzy I am forced to stop.  I have been experimenting with my body position and head position while swimming (because I am convinced it has something to do with the strain on my neck as I turn to breathe).  It has been brought to my attention that I have a tendancy to "pull to deep", so I have been really concentrating on pulling more shallow and rolling onto my side with my leading arm fully extended/stretched in front of me.  Last weeks workout it took about 30 min for the headache to come on (the end of my workout...they are very short these days till I get this taken care of), and then it went away shortly after I was done.  Yesterday...NO HEADACHE at all!!  I swam continuously for 30 min (pushing hard sometimes and just cruising the rest of the time).  My body felt very streamlined and "comfortable" in the water.  I will continue to focus on my pull and my body roll/head positioning and see what happens.  Good luck to you!!  I totally understand the "not wanted to get in the water".  VERY frustrating!!

  • afdrmom Rookie 1 posts since
    Jul 17, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    10. Feb 29, 2012 10:22 PM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    I would take a look at several things.  First, get goggles that will stick to your face for a few seconds without using the straps. If they won't do that, they are wrong for your face.  Next, put them on and fasten with the straps not too tight...just enough to keep water out.  Then.. wear them around the house for an hour.  No headache and the problem is not your goggles.  Wear you cap around the house without goggles for an hour.  No.pain...not the cap.  Then wear them together for an hour and check.  Once you have ruled out cap and goggles, move on to the pool.  Swim with back and breast stroke for 30 to 60 minutes. No's not the pool or water.  Now move on to breathing.  If you not exhaling fully, you are retaining carbon dioxide.  This can cause headache and dizziness. It's not lack of oxygen, It's too much carbon dioxide.  For. Pdt balance, you should learn to breathe on both sides.  Try a 3:2 ratio.  That's every third stroke, then every second.  So you go 1,2,3, breathe, 1,2, breathe.  An alternate is to breathe same side on the way down and the other side on the way back.  Ensure full and complete exhalation to dispel that carbon dioxide.  If you are sure you are doing this right and headaches persist, move on to head position.  Make sure your head is flat and your are looking at the bottom of the pool right under you.  Keep neck relaxed.  Shoulders relaxed.  Turn body to nreathe, not just neck. 

    Good luck!

  • c362137 Rookie 2 posts since
    Apr 27, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    12. Mar 7, 2012 6:32 AM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    Just reading this for the first time.


    I use to surf a lot and this would happen to me and my buddies quite often.  Water would get trapped in my upper sinuses and cause pressure.  Quite some time after we'd get out of the water (sometime hours) water would just start running out of our nose.  Sometimes it was at very embarssing times. You might be getting water up there when you're doing your flip turn.


    The way we helped this was to bend over and hold our heads up side down when we were drying off.  With our heads in this position the water would run out and releave the pressure.  You might try it.

  • talifish Rookie 2 posts since
    Apr 20, 2010
    Currently Being Moderated
    13. Mar 7, 2012 7:51 AM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    I used to have this problem all of the time, as well, and I found it to be a combination of multiple factors. The first, like most people are suggesting, was breathing. I went from breathing every 4th on the same side, to every three switching sides. I also started breathing out more during the stroke so that I was taking longer inhalations instead of a quick exhale/inhale while holding my breath during the stroke. That seemed to help alot. Another thing that helped was my body position. Instead of looking ahead of me towards teh end of the pool, I started looking more straight down, with about a fist-width between my chest and the bottom of my chin- that combined with an improved swim stroke also helped. The last thing that helped that I didn't take into consideration was dehydration and energy depletion. I began drinking a little powerade during my workouts which helped maintain my electrolyte level and hydration. I started every 4 laps, take a sip. Then every 8, then 16 and so on, til eventually i got my mile without stopping. I know endurance is a big desire, but what is the point if you can't enjoy it and youre in pain the rest of the day? On top of the powerade, i would usually take a little protein bar or the powerbar protein bites with me and have abite of the bar or a couple of the little protein bites both before and after my workout. That also seemed to make a big difference. Hopes that helps!

  • Julie Ann Hackett Legend 226 posts since
    Nov 20, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    14. Mar 7, 2012 9:42 AM (in response to KevinDouglas)
    Swimming headaches >:|

    I was having all kind of sinus issues from swimming in a heavily chlorinated indoor pool.  I got headaches and had breathing problems.  When I started getting toothaches while swimming I went to the dentist who suggested it was a sinus issue.  I starting using a neti pot after swimming and that has been a huge help for me.  It helps to flush the chemicals out and reduce any swelling in your sinuses.

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