First time posting, long-time reader.
I started seriously lifting in February of this year, and I made some remarkable gains. My coworkers have been saying that I look "muscular" now, and that last year I looked like I was sick because I was so thin. I feel much better about myself, and feel less self-conscious about my body.
A couple of weeks ago I started my workout doing essentially a bench-press on a machine, and I developed the headache that many here have described: back of the neck, throbbing, radiating upward and essentially incapacitating. I got up off the machine and literally hit the floor. The same happened again when I tried to resume.
I took a week off per the posts here, then tried again. This time it hit me doing curls. My workout was curtailed. Next day another episode while benching. Let me say that it had nothing to do with my breathing or hydration status, as I made sure those two parameters were covered. I could, however, feel the muscles in the base of my skull being pulled, and the pain worsened if I didn't focus on my form.
So, I'm taking more time off. I'm going to start posting here to keep my enthusiasm up. I am so freakin' frustrated, though, it makes me want to scream. I have just gone through about 11 pages of headache threads. I appreciate any wisdom/encouragement from you guys.
09-21-2008, 02:34 PM #1
Yet another victim of "weightlifter's headache"
09-21-2008, 03:22 PM #2
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Given hydration/breathing is covered....are there any supplements you are using prior to the workout that your system may not like?
If you eat before workout are you working out too soon?
Like I say, I don't know anything here....just thought I would throw out a few things to consider.
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09-21-2008, 03:52 PM #3
Thanks, Wayne. I haven't changed up my supplements. I'm not really using anything but whey protein, including Body Fortress and GNC's versions. I had actually decreased my consumption of them as I was getting tired of their tastes. As for my food intake, today I waited a couple of hours after eating prior to lifting. I felt great, ready to pound the weights. My first set, on rep number 7, BAM! Occipital headache. I had even tried taking 4 motrin prior to lifting, hoping that would help.
I am kicking back in bed now, and I have a dull throbbing in the back of my head. This sucks. Thanks for your kind words, man.
09-21-2008, 04:27 PM #4
You could have slightly pulled a muscle which maybe causing the headaches.
I have pulled my right neck muscles by using the incline bench press machine and the pain has been with me for years. I get neck pain and shoulder pain because of the neck, traps, shoulder muscles connection! Hurts like a MF'er! I'm constantly on pain-killers. I'm on them now. And this interferes with my workouts and most people look at me like I'm stone because my eyes are always glassy and droopy. LOL I use the Smith Machine and go at my own pace and so far I'm doing fine. I could try the regular bench, but I'm so doped up on pain-killers, I might end up crushing my larynx or crushing my ribcage! Whew! That would be fycuked up! LOL
Last edited by Taichichuan; 09-21-2008 at 04:30 PM.
09-21-2008, 04:32 PM #5
Thanks for the advice. Be careful with those pain killers!
09-21-2008, 04:37 PM #6
I feel for you man. I've had this and it sucked, big-time. I was doing chin ups to exhaustion and decided to jump up and do a few slow negatives. I took a deep breath, jumped up, took my weight, and my head exploded. I staggered over to a bench, put my head between my legs, and assumed that I was about to die of a ruptured aneurysm. When I didn't die, I slowly gathered my things and shuffled home. Thereafter, every time my heart rate got up a little, I'd get a headache. It didn't take much. Body squats, push ups, even sex would trigger a nasty headache that would linger for most of the day.
Based on my research, the problem was "exertion headache" and the only thing that fixed it was time off. Exertion headache pain is not always as debilitating or easily triggered as mine was. I knew a guy in Ireland who told me that he got a headache every time he squatted heavy (400+), but the pain wasn't enough to keep him from squatting.
Anyway, I wish you a speedy recovery. You might check with your doctor just to make sure your problem isn't something more serious or to see if he has any wisdom to offer other than to take two aspirin and stay out of the gym.
09-21-2008, 04:56 PM #7
09-21-2008, 05:19 PM #8
09-21-2008, 06:53 PM #9
Thanks for all the support, fellas.
Sytennison: You described the headache exactly. My first thought was that I had a head bleed as well. I literally fell to the floor in agony. I think I remember a prior post where you described having this headache. Good to hear that recovery can occur.
Johnny: I'm not quite ready to go to a chiropractor. I work with a few doctors trained in osteopathic medicine, so I may give one of them a shot.
I have taken a total of 1000mg of motrin today. I hate taking medicine. My upper-posterior neck muscles feel a bit sore, and I can feel a few knots in my traps.
Thanks again, everybody.
09-21-2008, 07:22 PM #10
09-21-2008, 07:36 PM #11
To be honest with you guys, I do have a medical degree, and I am a practicing ER physician. I assure you, if I had a patient come to the ER describing what I felt, I would do a head CT and a spinal tap on them, no question. But the old adage, "a doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient" certainly applies to me. Hell, I don't even have a primary care doctor.
In my readings, I think "occipital neuralgia" is the most appropriate diagnosis. Also seems there isn't much I can do about it except rest and nsaids. I am holding out on seeking evaluation for now. I promise if things aren't better soon, I will get it checked out.
BUT I better be damn near incapacitated before I let somebody stick a needle in MY back!
09-21-2008, 07:48 PM #12
Do you do neck stretching exercises? Feel any relief or tension when you do them? I've never gotten the huge headaches as you and others have described, mine have been minor. But I've traced them to squats and the effect of the weight of the bar. No, the bar isn't riding to high, it's where it should be. Neck rolls and unweighted shoulder shrugs several times a day have helped me greatly.
09-21-2008, 07:51 PM #13
I will not disagree with those who say go to a chiropractor. But let me toss in a couple other things. How is your blood pressure? If you are border line, the act of shoving weights around straining can cause it to spike. I have seen power lifters having nose bleeds after heavy lifts from BP spikes. Have the doc not just take your BP resting, ask for a treadmill stress test. Also, you may want to see about a carotid artery ultrasound. See if those pipes are smuzzed up. One of the warehouse guys at work would get screaming heed aches after doing some heavy lifting. He had the ultrasound and it was found his carotid artery was 70% blocked. A outpatient rotor rooter job and he was fixed. No more head aches.
09-21-2008, 08:30 PM #14
Freebirdmac: Excellent ideas regarding stretching. I have read where people were also doing some form of cardio prior to lifting to get things loosened up. Right now my neck muscles and traps are sore. The thought of even trying to do something heavy makes me cringe.
I never did shrugs previously, as I *thought* my shoulders/neck muscles were developing well without them. I thought wrong.
Dogsoldier: My BP has been good. It has been a couple of months since I last checked, but my systolic was ranging 110-120, with the diastolic in the 80's. I will keep an eye on it, though. I am hoping to avoid expensive testing at this time, but I do promise to get things checked out if I don't improve.
09-22-2008, 12:08 AM #15
1) Do you stretch regularly? If not I would suggest warming up a little before you lift. Do a light 5 or 6 minutes on the treadmill or bike followed by 5 minutes of streching legs, neck and arms.
2) Are you eating enough? Are you well hydrated and did you eat enough to get you through your workout?
Whatever it is, your body is telling you that you need to change something.
09-22-2008, 05:05 AM #16
When I was 17 I got severe pain in the back of head when squatting. I went to an MD he said stop squatting a wrote a script for pain pills. I told my football coach he sent me to the chiropractor one adjustment later everything was fine.
In 2003 same thing happened one adjustment later everything was fine.
I'd go for the 30 minute solution if it were me.
09-22-2008, 12:36 PM #17
Day 2: still with some mild soreness at the base of my neck and some tender spots on my traps. I did about 10 pushups this morning with no significant pain. Very hard to completely stop what I have been doing nearly daily for 7 months now. I will go for a run today, then do some more pushups/situps, maybe some legs if no pain. I took 4 motrin this morning.
gbk56: I fully agree with you, my body was telling me that I was pushing it too much. I was lifting more than I had ever lifted before in my life, and I definitely went too far too fast. No, I wasn't stretching. As for food intake, I am without-a-doubt an ectomorph, and I can't seem to get enough food. To be honest, over the last few months I have been trying to eat tons of food, and I am actually sick of trying to stuff myself. I am, however, happy with the results.
Johnny: I will check into local chiropractors. Not many in my area from what I can see. I hate going to doctors, though, lol.
Anybody with suggestions on neck stretching? I will search this site for info, too.
09-22-2008, 01:37 PM #18
09-22-2008, 03:14 PM #19
09-22-2008, 04:10 PM #20
09-22-2008, 06:03 PM #21
Thanks to you both for the stretching suggestions. Been doing them today.
Tonight I did just over 100 pushups and 5 sets of 10 dips. I realized it was at the end of my set where I am straining to get the last few that I started to lose my form and the pulling of the upper neck muscles started to occur. I immediately stopped the set and rested till the next set. I really think that having proper form is key to preventing this headache, but I have always enjoyed that last rep where I have to struggle to move the weight.
I went for a run after the pushups and dips, went several miles without problem. I still have a little mild soreness in the upper neck. I think tomorrow I will try hitting biceps with the preacher bench to make sure I am only using my biceps.
Last edited by Ecto-Brute; 09-22-2008 at 06:06 PM.
09-22-2008, 06:23 PM #22
Here are some streching execise for your neck.
1. Stand straight and tilt your head to the right. Keep everything square. With the fingers of your right hand pull your head down toward your shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Now alternate and do the left side.
2. Stand straight and clasp your hands behind your head like you are going to do a situp. Pull your head down so your chin goes toward your neck. Hold for 10 seconds. Now bend at the waist like you are stretching your hamstrings and with you hands still clasped behind your neck pull your head toward your knees. Hold for 10 seconds. This should stretch both your hamstrings and your neck.
3. Stand straight and place your hands under your chin like you are praying. push your chin up and back.
4. Sit down with you legs extended striaght in front of you. Touch your toes and bring your head to your knees.
Stretching after a nice run will also probably help. It is usally better to stretch after you have warmed up your body with a little cardio like running, jumping jacks, jump rope etc.
You may want to try a cardio warm up for 5 to 6 mintues, stretching then lifting. You may want to try stretching afterwards also. Especially as you get older your body does not rebound as well as when you were younger.
09-22-2008, 06:33 PM #23
09-22-2008, 06:40 PM #24
I had the same a year ago. It happened while benching last rep while holding breath and pushing my head on the bench. Very painful headaches , it went away slowly after few months. What made it worse was holding my breath to get that last rep. When lifting focus on breathing and try not to tighten your neck muscles. This is what they mean by mind-muscle connection, while doing a lift focus on the muscles to be used for the exercise and only those should be exerted.
(to cover my ass ,see a doctor)
09-22-2008, 06:53 PM #25
hah, yeah, I agree Joestrom2002. Form is key to preventing this injury.
I remembered tonight that I had bought one of these years ago at target:
I broke it out and used it. Pretty nice when you don't have a significant other to do the job!
09-22-2008, 10:52 PM #26
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I have had neck muscle tention headaches for over twenty years. I see a chiropractor a few times a year, when the pain won't go away. While lifting I try to keep my face, neck , jaw etc. relaxed and not tensed up. I also stretch my neck a lot.
Normally I take asprin or some other pain reliever several times a day, but I recently got an ulcer so I now I seldom take them, so as not to hurt my stomach. To help get rid of the pain I massage my neck a lot and this seems to help quite a bit.
If the pain is coming from your neck, and not some other issue, I would definitely recommend a chiropractor. I don't feel that most doctors are very good at treating muscle/joint problems."Quidvis recte factum quamvis humile praeclarum - Whatsoever is rightly done, however humble, is noble." Sir Henry Royce
09-23-2008, 10:18 AM #27
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I had this exact problem like 15 years ago. Like you, it happened when I benched...and was really painful. Mine also occurred when I had sex, so it was sort of a major downer.
I went to the doctor very concerned. One cat scan and neurological test later I was given a clean bill of health. The problem passed after a few weeks.
09-23-2008, 11:36 AM #28
Now that is not exactly what you described, ie, the pain burst type thing. But it may have led to it. I would suggest going for that last rep, but forcing yourself to use good form. Then, it is still a struggle, but may not cause the neck muscle strain.
Along with stretching, be sure to warm up on each exercise too.
Edited to add... by the way, do you drink much coffee? Green tea? You might be getting a BP spike during lifting from that?
Last edited by Hey-Iwas51; 09-23-2008 at 11:38 AM.I am amazed how my body has been able to change... It's design truly is a wonder. King David realized that some three thousand years ago...
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14 NIV
09-23-2008, 02:02 PM #29
09-23-2008, 09:14 PM #30
Thanks again all for the replies.
Day 3: I hit the preacher bench today with little problem. Again, I could feel a pulling at the end of my last rep, and that is when I stopped. I am a bit "gun-shy" now. I did high reps and low weight (60lbs). I then did triceps kick-backs, absolutely no strain there. I ran afterwards. At least I am getting in some good cardio during my quasi-hiatus.
Cacodaemon: In my research throughout this site, I saw more than one person stating that these same headaches come on with sex. Interesting, because aneurysms also have been known to rupture during sex (and defecating).
Hey-Iwas51: I completely agree with you on the tear-compensating-further tear idea. I had actually felt some mild pulling before the big one dropped me a few days ago. As for my caffeine intake, I am very guilty. I love energy drinks, but I believe the last time I checked my BP I had downed an Amp drink and my BP was still pretty low. I dunno, I will keep an eye on it.
RedMaster: oh heck yeah, it hurts! I am having trouble completely taking a week off. I will be working odd hours for the next 5 days, so that will help.
Thanks again, everyone.