T Nation

Headaches

I recently started a new routine of 20+ rep full squats with 225lbs. The first time I did the routine I had a terrible throbbing headache. After doing the routing a couple of times I am now experiencing infrequent headaches. Now I get headaches at lower reps (8-12) on different exercises. I went to my PCP and he diagnosed it as exertion induced headaches. Anyone else on the board ever experienced this problem? How frequent an occurrence with athletes is this?

I never had the problem, but I had a friend who did. He got a headache whenever he lifted. I guess he tensed his neck too much. From the sound of what you’re saying, you may have pinched a nerve while you were squatting. The bar may have misaligned something. For you to get exertion induced headaches come on suddenly when you had no problems before sounds a bit awry. You might try going to a chiroprator (not sure what a PCP is…a drug perhaps?).

PCP = primary care physician

I also had the same problem while I was in chiropractic college with high rep squats. Knock me down headaches. I tried adjustments, didn’t work. they went away after I switched to a heavy low rep program. At that time there was no ART, but I would have a trained provider look at the upper cervical muscles.

I would agree with the other guys in that it is most likely muscular. I had a similar problem a few years ago and I know at least two other peolpe who had the same problem. LL

I had the same problem when I started 20rep squats. I got such great results though that I just dealt with the headache. I’m doing another cycle right now, but I started out lighter, say 180 x 20 and add 5 lbs every week. It might take a few weeks until it even gets hard but I’ve had no headaches this way, even when I get back up to my heavier weights, which for me was around 225x 20. Hope this helps

I had a similar problem with headaches but I got them doing the bench press. I mainly got them doing high intensity low rep sets. The headaches I got from this were so intense, I had to stop my workout straight away. I saw a few doctors about it but they did fuck all to help me apart from prescribing hard core dugs (ok…maybe they did help a little). I tried doing lighter intensity sets but still got the headaches every time. I was starting to worry about what might be wrong, thinking I may never be able to train properly again. Eventually I went to my family chiropractor. He cracked a few things into place and he said my back and neck were really out of place. After that visit, I went to the gym a little later and had no headaches what so ever. I even tried real high intensity reps, trying to bust some veins outta my head from pushing so hard, and still no headaches. Occasionally I get the headaches back every few months usually after I do something stupid like take a bad fall in football (and obviously put my back/neck out again). So I just head back to the chiropractor for a quick visit and then Im back into the training. I was very relived to find out that the cause of my problem was so simple. This may not be the case for you but its definetly worth a try!!

It may very well be musclular but it might also be blood pressure related. There is a significant shift in blood volume away from the head and torso during heavy leg work. I’ve gotten off the leg press a few times and become rather disoriented as pressure equalized. This kind of condition won’t be detected in a doctor’s office because you can’t easily reproduce the same stresses there.

This might sound lame, but try focusing on your breathing.

This has happened to me on a couple of occasions. The first time I was doing the 1-6 principle. I was doing a pullup with 100 lbs. strapped on me and at the end of my concentric phase I experienced a paralyzing headache. I really though something serious was wrong. I tried to continue my workout, but couldn’t handle the heavy loads. That was the first time I just up and quit in the middle of a workout. I had another experience with this type of headache while doing a high rep set of squats in the Limping series. That was months ago and I haven’t had the problem since. I agree that it could be a combo of improper breathing and high stress.

Thanks for the suggestions guys. Seems my problem could be breathing related or muscular. In any event, I do an MRI today to check things out on a diffrent level. My Doc says its standard procedues in these caes.

A few years ago, I was squatting and felt a terrible pain in my head that focussed behind one eye. I barely racked the weight before the pain dropped me to the floor. My neck was sensitive but I didn’t suspect it was responsible. After a few weeks of rest, I tried squatting again, but the same thing occurred. Scared shitless, I went through the full spectrum of medical practioners over several visits and many weeks. The cardiologist deduced it wasn’t specific to the vasculature and recommended a neurologist. Using MRI, the neurologist identified 2 distinct sites of demyelination in the brain near significant cerebral blood vessels. Although it wasn’t definitive, he suggested that the increased blood pressure during the squatting caused damage to the nearby tissue. Combined with the chiroprator’s view that a misalignment of my cervical vertebrae could’ve compromised the vertebral arteries, it appeared that elevated blood pressure and/or anatomy was responsible. Bottom line: see both a competent chiropractor and try to get an MRI. Better safe, than sorry. After getting some spinal adjustments and focussing on breathing, I haven’t experienced it again. I’ve since heard it called ‘weightlifter’s headache’. Best of luck.

This topic has been very widely discussed on the superslow sites in the past and they refered to it as EIH or exercise induced headache. Their theory was that the increased bp in the torso due to lack of breathing and or torso compression causes blood to backflow into the skull cavity through the veins instead of the arteries causing a massive spike in pressure. Then due to the fact that there is usually a very regulated moderate blood pressure in the brain and skull area the massive spike causes incredible pain(i think when the blood travels through the capilaries in the skull). Regardless of whether this is the true cause, the cure is a breif break from any squat or leg press movements and improving breathing when the lifts are resumed. Also, DO NOT try to work through this kind of headache-it can last for weeks and be debilitating if pushed.

Don:
If you have implimented the suggestions in this article and still are not getting anywhere, go see a good Chiropractor that can adjust the cervical/neck region. Since I am a Chiropractor, I find the vast majority of headaches cases that I see are a result of a misalignment/subluxation of the upper cervical area. Although there are many causes for headaches, Chiropractic is one avenue that should be explored.