El Paso Functional Medicine
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Sports Exercise Headaches Wellness Chiropractor


Sports exercise headaches are exertion headaches that involve pain during or immediately after sports, exercise, or some physical activity. They come on quickly but can last a few minutes, hours, or days. Activities associated with exercise headaches include running, weightlifting, tennis, swimming, and rowing. Chiropractic, massage, decompression, and traction therapies can realign the body and relax the muscles allowing for optimal circulation and certain strategies to help prevent future episodes. Usually, there is no underlying disease or disorder, but it is recommended to talk to a healthcare provider to make sure.

Sports, Exercise, Physical Activity Headaches Chiropractor

Sports Exercise Headaches

When individuals exert their bodies intensely, they need added blood and oxygen, particularly with activities that involve tightening/tensing the abdominal muscles or increasing chest pressure. Doctors and scientists believe an exertional headache occurs when intense physical activity causes the veins and arteries to expand to circulate more blood. The expansion and increased blood circulation generate pressure in the skull that can cause pain.

Alternate Triggers

Exercising is not the only cause; other physical activities that can trigger an exertion headache include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Straining to use the bathroom
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Lifting  or moving a heavy object


Symptoms of a sports exercise headache include:

  • Neck stiffness or pain
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pulsating pain discomfort
  • Throbbing pain discomfort
  • Shoulder tightness, discomfort, and/or pain

Sometimes individuals report the headache can feel like a migraine that could include:

  • Vision problems like blind spots
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Light sensitivity

Most exercise headaches last five to 48 hours and can continue for three to six months.


An underlying disease or disorder does not cause most exertional headaches. However, individuals experiencing severe or frequent headaches should consult their doctor or a healthcare provider. Tests will be ordered to rule out possible causes that include:

If there is no underlying cause found, the medical provider can diagnose exertion headaches if there have been at least two headaches that:

  • Were caused by exercise or physical activity.
  • Started during or after the physical activity.
  • Lasted less than 48 hours.

Chiropractic Treatment

According to the American Chiropractic Association, spinal adjustments are an effective headache treatment option. This includes migraines, tension headaches, or sports exercise headaches. Using the targeted approaches, chiropractic restores the body’s natural alignment to improve function and alleviate stress on the nervous system. This allows the body to operate at optimal levels reducing muscle stress and muscle tension.

DOC Decompression Table


American Migraine Foundation. Secondary Headaches. (americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/secondary-headaches/) Accessed 11/17/2021.

Evans, Randolph W. “Sports and Headaches.” Headache vol. 58,3 (2018): 426-437. doi:10.1111/head.13263

International Headache Society. HIS Classification ICHD-3. (ichd-3.org/other-primary-headache-disorders/4-2-primary-exercise-headache/) Accessed 11/17/2021.

McCrory, P. “Headaches and exercise.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 30,3 (2000): 221-9. doi:10.2165/00007256-200030030-00006

National Headache Foundation. Exertional Headaches. (headaches.org/2007/10/25/exertional-headaches/) Accessed 11/17/2021.

Ramadan, Nabih M. “Sports-related headache.” Current pain and headache reports vol. 8,4 (2004): 301-5. doi:10.1007/s11916-004-0012-1

Trotta K, Hyde J. Exercise-induced headaches: prevention, management, and treatment. (www.uspharmacist.com/article/exerciseinduced-headaches-prevention-management-and-treatment) U.S. Pharm. 2017;42(1):33-36. Accessed 11/17/2021.

Post Disclaimer

Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "Sports Exercise Headaches Wellness Chiropractor" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

Blog Information & Scope Discussions

Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from various disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and directly or indirectly support our clinical scope of practice.*

Our office has reasonably attempted to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.

We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez, DC, or contact us at 915-850-0900.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
Texas DC License # TX5807, New Mexico DC License # NM-DC2182

Licensed as a Registered Nurse (RN*) in Florida
Florida License RN License # RN9617241 (Control No. 3558029)
License Compact Status: Multi-State License: Authorized to Practice in 40 States*
Presently Matriculated: ICHS: MSN* FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner Program)

Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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