View Full Version : Why do I get headaches?

February 9th, 2003, 10:57 PM
I've been a lap swimmer for years but in the last couple of years have increased my distances substantially compared to past years.

Unfortunately one of the negative by products has been headaches after I finish my workouts.

This usually occurs when I swim longer then 90 minutes. During the swim I'll feel great. No problems after quitting. Then about 30 to 45 minutes after I finish I'll feel the headache coming. 90 minutes after the swim ended I'll have a nasty headache. I take ibprofene for it and it goes away after an hour or so.

I thought it might be dehydration, so I started swimming with a large water bottle at the end of the lane and I'd take a quick drink every 1/4 to 1/3 of a mile. That didn't seem to help. I added a 20 oz bottle of Gatorade, along with the water, doesn't seem to have made any difference.

I went to my family doctor about 8 months ago and had a bunch of blood tests done to see if something would show up there, nothing. No blood sugar problems or other "inbalances".

So I keep swimming and keep getting these damn headaches.

Anyone have any clues as to what could be causing them or possible remedies?


February 9th, 2003, 11:22 PM
Since your doctor didn't find any medical explanation, my guess is that the headaches come from tension in your neck muscles while you swim. Based on personal experience, I think this can happen if you keep your head position high, for example by looking forward. You have to keep your neck muscles flexed to do this, which tightens them. When you increased the time of your workout you also kept those muscles flexed longer than they were used to.

I used to get headaches after long workouts occasionally, also. They stopped after my coach told me to keep my head in a "neutral" position, i.e., looking toward the bottom of the pool instead of the end.

Courteous Swimmer
February 11th, 2003, 03:12 AM
I sometimes get headaches too. It could be any of the following:

- Tight goggles

- Tight swim cap

- Tight nose piece

- Too much chlorine in the pool

- Water remains in your ears(use drops after you swim)

- Not exhaling enough during laps

February 11th, 2003, 07:20 AM
The first thought that came to mind before I even finished reading your post was dehydration. Even if you happen to down a bottle of fluid during swim sessions, you may still be running on a low tank. Have you tried carrying a liter of bottled water with you throughout the day? You should try to have at least two bottles to keep adequately hydrated, especially in your climate which gets considerably warm during the summer months.

On the days that I skip the recommended water intake, the next morning's practice will surely lead to a headache, a sign that its time to rehydrate. I wouldn't discount what Ken was suggesting either. And tight goggles are a great way to restrict blood flow to the noggin' too.

February 11th, 2003, 05:32 PM
Hi, I agree with Ken - my guess, too, is that it is coming from your neck. You may indeed be carrying your head too high and not keeping your neck "in neutral". With the neck in neutral the waterline would be at your hairline and your face pointing at the bottom of the pool. A lot of mechanical stresses occur in the neck spine with the head even only slightly tipped up. Mechanical stresses to the neck very often manifest as headaches. I concur with Ken's recommendations about watching your head position carefully. I hope your headaches go away soon:)

February 11th, 2003, 05:51 PM
When I read Ken's reply I actually thought "I already look at the bottom, but thanks anyway."

Oh man, I'm an idiot, make that an IDIOT.

I went swimming yesterday, started swimming and remembered Ken's comment, and noticed I wasn't looking straight down; I was looking about 5 meters ahead. I never noticed I did this.

I consciously did my swim thinking, look at the bottom, look at the bottom. It was kind of funny because I got to looking at the little tiles on the bottom and just about gave myself vertigo.

After a 90 minute swim I felt great, but I almost always feel good after swimming. The payoff came an hour later when I had NO HINT of a headache.

Iím not heralding this as the CURE, but Iíll be doing a long swim later tonight and you can bet Iíll be watching the bottom again.

Iíll keep you updated.

Thanks a ton for the comments. I would have never thought about neck strain as the possible problem since my neck and shoulders never feel tired or sore after swimming.

February 12th, 2003, 09:19 AM
If this turns out to be neck strain ... also consider how much time you spend with a kick board and how you hold your head and neck then. Heads up with a kickboard in front can stress the shoulders and neck quite a bit. Good alternatives are: 1)using a kickboard with your face in the water looking down; 2) kicking on your side with no kickboard, or 3) vertical kicking. All these can keep your head/neck a little straighter aligned.

good luck!

February 12th, 2003, 12:45 PM
Another long swim last night and no headache.

Apparently this whole neck/shoulder strain thing might be the answer.

I can't remember the last time I had two long swims in a row and didn't get a headache.

Thanks everyone.