T Nation

Lifting Migraines

Hi All,

Last Wednesday I was squatting and got a migraine. It came on when I was at the midpoint and was probably holding my breath. It was an intense one at the front right hand side of my head. It was a full on migraine with the nausea, light affected and just brutal. I get them occassionally. I medicated it and it went away but has lurked for a week now. It comes back if I don’t take the meds and I have seen the doctor who gave me some stronger meds and nasal spray.

For the last 2 days I have got on top of it and there has been no pain during the day. But when I go to the gym, I last about 2 sets and all the warning signs are back. If I lifted for another 5 minutes it would be back on a full scale.

Has anyone had anything similar to this? Thoughts would be appreciated and management strategies would be great. I’m 1 week out of lifting which is very frustrating.


Yes I had a severe bout of these about 2 years ago. My routine was shoulders then legs next day. So my traps and neck muscles were already tight and then the load of the bar while squatting activated trigger points in the muscles. It was an unbelievable pain and naseua. I felt like I was literally about to pass out and my head was going to explode. I have also experienced valsulva dizziness when I first started training and it was like a vulsalva maneuver , but not the same thing. I deactivated TrP’s in the upper trap and SCM, and haven’ had any problems since. Nueromuscular therapy/ ART technique was the technique used. There are two links below with diagrams if they don’ t show up look them up. Definitely keep an eye on it and check with the doctor if it continues.



I have zero expertise with migraines but I had a lot through my childhood and 20’s so I feel for you. They suck. What seemed to make the difference for me was switching a to more paleo like diet. I can’t prove that it worked but when I started eating that way I stopped getting migraines. Mine did not come on during exercise though.

I’m guessing you’ve ruled out anything serious, so perhaps switching up your eating or sleep patterns is worth a try. If you drink, I’d watch the alcohol for a while until the migraines are under control. That’s the only thing that still really triggers mine.

I had this exact same issue when I was in high school. I would get a sharp migraine mid set, and would have to stop. I would even take the rest of the week off, but as soon as I started lifting again, the migraines came back. I started to focus on my breathing throughout my sets, and in between. It seems to have helped, bc I don’t get migraines anymore while lifting. I would also make sure you are staying hydrated.

Although if you are getting medication from a doctor, and the migraines are not going away during your lifts, then I would be a little concern, and say that your situation may be a little more serious than what mine was.

I have had the same thing happen to me in the past.

In each case I was doing a high rep leg exercise, such as squats or leg presses, with heavy weight beyond what would be normal failure, such as rest pause, drop sets or just plain old breathing squats.

I think it has been caused by a combination of poor breathing technique, dehydration, congestion in my head from alergies and possibly a side effect from too much caffeiene.

I once had it so bad I had headache like symtoms and pain along my scalp and neck for over a week.

I now pay more attention to breathing with each rep, staying more hydrated and avoid stimulants during workouts. I also stop a set immediately when the sensation starts and don’t try to tough it out or power through.

Following that plan, I have been able to avoid having a major episode. Although occassionally I can feel it coming on when I go ape shit on leg press.