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Short Question
Can moderate (sweating) workout trigger migraine?


Details
My wife had migraine twice before joining a gym when she was studying in classroom in May 2014 (at a gap of 2+ weeks) and then it never re-triggered. (Was on medications for a week)

Last year (July 2015) I pulled her to my gym. I go for workout early in the morning and we started going together. During July-Sep 2015 she went to gym for about 8 weeks (almost regularly 4-5 times a week) and had migraine triggered for about 7 times within an hour after the exercise (Rough workout schedule: 15 min cardio + 20 min weight training + 10 min stretching/crunches etc). We visited couple of doctors and gym fitness trainers who said exercise can never trigger migraine, and in fact it is helpful in suppressing it. Since then she left the gym, and there was not a single occurrence of migraine.

Yesterday I insisted her to rejoin the workout routine (Partly to stay fit and partly because we paid for the whole year). And asked her to go to gym in the evening instead of morning. She did cycling at mild pace for 10 min and joined a group dance activity for 1 hour. After about an hour of the activity the migraine triggered again.

All the migraine attacks were similar with following flow:

  1. Blurred vision
  2. Severe Headache
  3. Vomitting
  4. Severe headache continues

She loves cycling and dancing for hours and it never causes any issue.

My Question
Should my wife immediately stop exercising? Might she be doing something wrong about workout or diet causing this problem?

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  • Stop exercising? She should see a doctor!
    – Alec
    Mar 18 '16 at 10:04
  • @Alec Thanks. We visited 2 doctors. Ironically both encouraged exercise.
    – Mohit Jain
    Mar 18 '16 at 10:22
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Most of the migranes are hereditary. Biological states may cause increases in free fatty acids and blood lipids, increased platelet aggregation, decreased serotonin levels and increased prostaglandin levels, which can cause the vasodilatation that precedes migraine headache. One possible reason for this is that a part of the physical reaction may be the elevation of blood pressure (important). The other possible reason can be the physical exertion of the body during exercise, and sudden drop of blood sugar which is the trigger for your exercise-induced headaches.

What can you do? drink water and get well hydrated, have good warm-up before exercise, begin slowly then increase your intensity, choose less forceful or lower-impact exercises (by the way, weightlifting seems to be more likely to cause migraines, you may try some preventative medication before exercising, decrease the intensity of the exercise slowly.

There are some studies about it Prevention of Exercise Induced Migraine by Quantitative Warm-up

The effects of exercise and exercise-related changes in blood nitric oxide level on migraine headache

On the good site, Nitric Oxide which is released during exercise may help to relieve the pain (more info: pls, read the article above)

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This happened to me once.

I was staying at a hotel, and decided to go to the gym to work out. I had never had anything like a post-workout headache before. I had never had anything like a migraine before. About 15 minutes into the workout (once I started to really warm up and sweat), a headache started, and within minutes it became debilitating -- I spent the rest of the afternoon in bed in the dark. Two days later, I tried working out again, thinking it was some kind of fluke, but the same thing happened.

I went home and asked my doctor about it, who suggested that it might have actually been an allergy to something I'm not normally exposed to, like a specific cleaning product. I went on to become an athlete in college and never had a post-workout migraine again -- they only ever happened at that one hotel. So I'm inclined to believe the allergy hypothesis.

Maybe your wife is allergic to something at the gym.

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  • This does not really answer the question. If you have a different question, you can ask it by clicking Ask Question. You can also add a bounty to draw more attention to this question. - From Review
    – Alec
    Mar 18 '16 at 20:25
  • @Alec no, I do not have another question. I have experience with a similar situation, and a resolution was proposed to me for that situation. I'm passing on that proposition to the asker. I actually have a hard time seeing how this isn't an answer. Mar 18 '16 at 20:59
  • 1
    Because it's basically a "this happened to me" with no real resolution, i.e. it "might" have been this. It's conjecture, which is a bad fit for a Q&A site.
    – JohnP
    Mar 18 '16 at 21:54
  • If you're unfamiliar with the site, the comment I made was an automatically generated one, that appeared when I suggested that your answer may not have been entirely to the point of the question. Sharing your experience is good, but unless it firmly answers the question, it should be a comment instead of an answer. "Maybe she's allergic" is guesswork, hence my comment. Nothing against you or your experience.
    – Alec
    Mar 19 '16 at 0:42

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