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  1. #1
    Registered User gymrat2007's Avatar
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    exertion headaches

    I was toward the end of my work out, doing some heavy leg presses, & a shooting pain went right up the back of my head. It was very sudden & painful. I know what it was b/c this same thing happened a few times before years ago. Well this was 3 days ago, i still have a mild head ache & if I do anything, like a pull up or anything that requires me to excert strength, the head ache comes on the same way & suddenly, then just remains a dull aching pain.
    how long does this take to go away ?
    any one ever had this happen to them before ?
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    Registered User Lukelovesyoutoo's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by gymrat2007 View Post
    I was toward the end of my work out, doing some heavy leg presses, & a shooting pain went right up the back of my head. It was very sudden & painful. I know what it was b/c this same thing happened a few times before years ago. Well this was 3 days ago, i still have a mild head ache & if I do anything, like a pull up or anything that requires me to excert strength, the head ache comes on the same way & suddenly, then just remains a dull aching pain.
    how long does this take to go away ?
    any one ever had this happen to them before ?
    I just posted about this as I'm battling exertion headaches myself.

    From what I understand, the only way to cure them is to take time off. I've gotten them EVERY workout for several months now. Even when I focus on breathing, whenever I do something more intense than picking up an empty bar, the pain returns.
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  3. #3
    Registered User gymrat2007's Avatar
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    this sucks... i hope i don't have to take off too much time. I haven't worked out in a few days b/c of this, i'm going to try again tonight.
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    Registered User andy102's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by gymrat2007 View Post
    I was toward the end of my work out, doing some heavy leg presses, & a shooting pain went right up the back of my head. It was very sudden & painful. I know what it was b/c this same thing happened a few times before years ago. Well this was 3 days ago, i still have a mild head ache & if I do anything, like a pull up or anything that requires me to excert strength, the head ache comes on the same way & suddenly, then just remains a dull aching pain.
    how long does this take to go away ?
    any one ever had this happen to them before ?
    yee i've jst started getting them, got that same 'shooting pain' rite up the back of my head during bench press.. and was probably the most splitting headache i've ever had.. and now like you i jst seem to constantly have a dull ache. problem is i thought it was better, repeated the same exercise 5 days later and the pain was even worse. however i seem to only get this headache whilst doing bench press... other exercies are absolutely fine. apparently alot of weightlifters get it (so i've read) so im not too worried. but hopefully they'll stop soon. i've read around nd apparently it can sometimes be caused by over-tensing neck muscles, and can be corrected by making sure the neck is more relaxed, and breating is more controlled. but im not sure, im going to hit the gym tommorow nd see if i can correct these headaches with these methods.
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    Registered User jruck's Avatar
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    Just 4 days ago I had a mid workout headache come on just like you described during a chest routine. The headache was severe enough that I thought it best to be checked out by an EMT about 45 minutes later. The EMT partially atributed the headache to deydration. It made sense after the prior two day stretch of activity I had. After 800 mg of Advil, 3 bottles of gatorade and 1 liter of water the headache subsided surprisingly quick. Unfortunately it mildly crept back by the end of the day. I have been unable to get rid of it. I'm hoping for some feedback on how to myself over this.
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    Registered User andy102's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by jruck View Post
    Just 4 days ago I had a mid workout headache come on just like you described during a chest routine. The headache was severe enough that I thought it best to be checked out by an EMT about 45 minutes later. The EMT partially atributed the headache to deydration. It made sense after the prior two day stretch of activity I had. After 800 mg of Advil, 3 bottles of gatorade and 1 liter of water the headache subsided surprisingly quick. Unfortunately it mildly crept back by the end of the day. I have been unable to get rid of it. I'm hoping for some feedback on how to myself over this.
    its been two weeks since i got the severe headache, and i havnt had a problem since. it lasted for a gd 5 days as a dull, constant headache after i got it.. but after the third day i tryed working out again, but really concentrated on breathing, doing slow.. controlled reps and keeping my neck as relaxed as possible.. and the severe headache didnt come back.. although it still ached slightely. and there after the headache jst slowly disappeared.. and for the past week and a half i've been back to normal. to be honest i think i was jst pushing myself too hard or sumthing, cause like you, i'd been doing pretty intense activity the previous day. jst needed a bit of rest.. and more concentration on form.. and breathing during the work out.
    so if i were you jst take a few days off... and it should slowly disappear over time, if its the same as mine was. my conclusion is that its jst ur body telling you to slow down.
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    could these type of headaches be dangerous?
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    Registered User steveadl's Avatar
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    The exact same thing happened to me.

    Happened a few months back and again yesterday. Was doing a legs session in the afternoon. On the leg press, from memory it was my last set, in fact the drop set following after I peeled a couple plates of each side. Pumping them out and at rep 8 - BAM, massive shooting pain through the back of my neck, really deep inside just under and behind the skull.

    Rested for a few mins and the throb was still there but not as bad and was able to finish with extensions and some calves.

    Then this morning I was doing an arms session. Did overhead single hand extensions no probs with dumbells, but then we moved onto double overhead with the rope, and we decided to go a bit heavier than usual. Half way through the first set and BAM - the head rush and throb came back. This time, it stayed with me for the rest of the workout despite being well hydrated and from that point breathing very purposely during every rep. Softened during rests, but when pushing myself through the rest of my sets, it really throbbed. Glad it was only arm day.

    I can't remember how long it took to go away last time, I think it was only a couple days. Tomorrow is rest for me anyway and hoping by Sunday I should be alright, though will remain aware of it.

    So not sure if it's caused by back neck positioning/tension, or just extraordinary weight pressure of a hard set? I do have tense muscles and get knots in the back of my neck anyway which forces me to the Chiropractor usually a couple times a year which fixes it up by relieving/removing the knots.

    So Chiro may be a solution for people who have had this problem.
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    Registered User LightForce's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by steveadl View Post
    I do have tense muscles and get knots in the back of my neck anyway which forces me to the Chiropractor usually a couple times a year which fixes it up by relieving/removing the knots.

    So Chiro may be a solution for people who have had this problem.
    You answered your own question.

    Tight muscles in the neck and upper traps = shooting pain into head.

    OP go get an adjustment by a chiropractor that can move you (weight lifters are going to be harder to move with more muscle). Then go get a muscle work done on it = E-stem, Ultrasound, deep myofascial release massage. Give it a week and it should be better.

    Im no doctor, and I feel like I need to make that clear in this section especially, but from my understanding, tighter muscles compress nerves and blood vessels alike increasing the pressure superior to the tight muscles. Combine this with some heavy squats or deadlifts and the wonderful valsalva maneuver i.e. holding your breath and you have a big headache.

    I had them once, and what I posted solved the problem. Get better everyone.
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    Registered User dkalmbac's Avatar
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    I've found this thread to be helpful, so I figured I'd chime in with my experience as well.

    A week ago, I was doing cable cross-overs (my first weightlifting set of the day) and, during my third set, I experienced an explosive headache. It seemed like the focal point was in rear left-center part of my head, though the initial phase of the headache indeed affect my whole head - felt like there was a lot of pressure and it throbbed like hell. After settling, the headache was a dull, pressure-feeling type of headache, largely located in the back of my head, near the neck, though I also had pain in the rear sides of my head, kind of above and behind both ears. I, in a moment of powerful stupidity, thought I could just work through the pain. Well, I did two more sets of that, then some dips, and seated chest flyes. During and after each set, I experienced the same thing that I just described. If I could do it over again, I would have stopped after my headache's first onset. Now, for what it's worth, I've been working out for years, and I wasn't pushing my self abnormally hard. Also, before lifting that day, I warmed up with 5 minutes of cardio, stretched my neck, slept well the night before, and was well hydrated (I even always have a bottle with me when I workout). Further, I am always always always careful about my breathing.

    The next day, I figured I'd do some mild cardio. I was on an elliptical and got a headache about some minutes into it; again, I was keeping it pretty easy. I think my HR was maybe 150s or so when I felt the headache coming back on. Also, I found out that night that sex also triggers the headache. So, I just didn't do any exercise again until Saturday. On Saturday, I thought I'd try just doing one set of 20 pushups (which for me, and I'm sure the vast majority of everyone here, is a walk in the park). At pushup 15, I had to give up because I felt my headache coming on and it hit me again, I think just as severe as the first time I experienced it. As such, I didn't do any workouts or sex or anything until today. This afternoon, I found that, once again, sex triggered my headache, just as severe and in the same way that the first headache did. For what it's worth, given that I thought that maybe my neck was the issue, I had been taking muscle relaxers the past couple nights, but I had the pain again today anyway (admittedly, 2 nights of muscle relaxers may not have much of a therapeutic effects, but the fact that the severity hasn't appeared to lessen after a handful of days of rest AND two nights of muscle relaxers, I was expectedly disconcerted).

    I saw my primary care physician today and she prescribed me Atenolol, which is a beta blocker that is supposed to keep blood pressure down. She said she had treated one patient before who had been diagnosed with exertion headaches, and that this medicine had alleviated her symptoms. For what it's worth, I'm still experiencing the headache that onset this afternoon. I've taken my first dose of Atenolol, but probably won't see any effects (IF I even do experience any therapeutic effects) for a few days or so. Also, I have a CAT scan scheduled for this Friday and will see a neurologist in four weeks (I have pretty lousy insurance, so I'm limited as to where I can go, which means long wait times...). HOPEFULLY, the neurologist will report that the CAT scan shows no structural abnormalities and that my exertion headaches are primary rather than secondary (look it up, if you don't know what I mean by that). I'm hoping that I just need to rest and heal more, and that my affliction is not a sign of a major issue. If the medication and rest do not help, hopefully the neurologist will have some good news for me (i.e., I just have to rest a bit longer and that nothing major is wrong). Also, should my symptoms not be alleviated by that time, I will ask him and/or my primary care physician to refer me to a chiropractor so that I can explore that route.

    In short, to anyone experiencing these headaches, here are my suggestions. Mind you that I am not a medical doctor and that I am actually still experiencing these symptoms.

    1. REST. Do NOT try to work through it. Everyone here has been injured in one way or another, so everyone can empathize with the frustration that comes with having to rest rather that workout. But it is not worth it. Persevering through fatigue is one thing. Persevering through a headache is a totally different game. You could be worsening the severity of your affliction should you choose to ignore the pain. Pain is often a message from your body telling you something is wrong, so listen to it.

    2. See your doctor and request a CAT scan, MRI, and/or MRA. From my understanding, the vast majority of exertion headaches are benign, but you should really, really rule out any major problems. My doctor prescribed me Atenolol (described above) which she said she's had some success treating exertion headaches with. Maybe your doctor may want to try it, maybe not. Something to think about though.

    3. See a neurologist to discuss the imaging (whether it be CAT scan, MRI, or MRA). Hopefully, the exertion headaches are not a sign of something major. Also, preferably, see a neurologist who specializes in headaches and migraines as they will likely have the best expertise on this issue.

    4. If you're still not feeling better after MUCH rest (which is less a matter of days but rather a matter of weeks, it seems), consider seeing a chiropractor. Blood pressure and the resulting intracranial pressure appears to be the most common mechanism by which these headaches occur (based on gleaning others' experiences here and elsewhere), but it seems that some people's exertion headaches may be primarily or secondarily influenced by either neck muscle or nerve issues.

    5. For when you get back to working out, start with less weight, and if you feel even the slightest sign of a headache coming back, then stop your workout right there. That means you obviously have not fully healed and you do not want to have to start all over again, just because you didn't feel like resting longer.

    Good luck to all who are dealing with this problem.

    [EDIT]: I used no-xplode before my workout. I never do that, I just happened to have a free sample from one of my bodybuilding.com orders. After a quick search, it seems that a lot of people who have used no-xplode get, among other things, exertion headaches sometimes. this is bc the product has supplements that both constrict your blood vessels, as well as increases blood flow. when you constrict blood vessels while simultaneously increasing blood flow, your blood pressure goes wayyyy too high. something to consider. i'm REALLY REALLY wishing i hadn't used no-xplode...
    Last edited by dkalmbac; 11-03-2011 at 02:39 PM.
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  11. #11
    Registered User dkalmbac's Avatar
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    UPDATE: it's been two weeks since i got my exertion headache. i really do think that the no-xplode played a big role - a lot of people report exertion headaches after taking no-xplode. i tried some light cardio today, and a headache started creeping in, so i stopped. i think my condition might be improving, but i'm certainly not healed fully. CT scan was negative. Hopefully another week or two of rest will do the trick.
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    Registered User steve weiser's Avatar
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    Well if it was the no-explode (which i doubt) then it must seriously raise your blood pressure and make you not be able to breathe normally.
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    Exertion Headache, my solution.

    Originally Posted by steve weiser View Post
    Well if it was the no-explode (which i doubt) then it must seriously raise your blood pressure and make you not be able to breathe normally.
    Surprisingly, if the results of googling it and reading all the web forum posts about it is any indication, this seems to be a fairly frequent type of headache.

    I too suffered from this type of headache last Friday. I had done back and biceps on Thursday, and on Friday I was doing legs. I got through my squats but on my first set of lunges, about the 6th rep I started to feel a headache coming on. I stopped at 8, took a short break and started my second set. I got to the 4th rep and by the 7th rep my head was about to explode. I thought I was going to pass out. Needless to say my workout was done, which seriously bummed me out but I was in so much pain and quite frankly pretty scared.

    It was very fortunate for me that I had a massage scheduled for just after my workout so I took a steam bath and went to the massage. My massuese could tell right away that something was wrong and I told her what had happened. She spent 1.5 hours working my back and neck and by the time she was finished I was sore but the pain had gone away. I took it easy over the weekend and returned to the gym today and was able to get through a pretty killer workout without any head pain.

    My conclusion is that some of these headaches are caused by pinched nerves deep in the neck. My outcome is supported by this notion, as is the fact that several people suffering from the same condition got very fast relief after seeing an osteopath or chiroprater right away, while others who got no treatment took weeks or more to heal.

    I hope this experience helps others as the prospect of losing hard gains at the gym are pretty depressing and can possibly be avoided if you seek immediate treatment.

    I too use NoExplode, and used it again today without getting a headache. The vast majority of the people I read about online did not seem to be using a pre training supplement so I don't think that it is related.

    cio,

    /s
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    Registered User Ponyboy312's Avatar
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    Great Post Thanks

    Originally Posted by dkalmbac View Post
    I've found this thread to be helpful, so I figured I'd chime in with my experience as well.

    A week ago, I was doing cable cross-overs (my first weightlifting set of the day) and, during my third set, I experienced an explosive headache.

    [EDIT]: I used no-xplode before my workout. I never do that, I just happened to have a free sample from one of my bodybuilding.com orders. After a quick search, it seems that a lot of people who have used no-xplode get, among other things, exertion headaches sometimes. this is bc the product has supplements that both constrict your blood vessels, as well as increases blood flow. when you constrict blood vessels while simultaneously increasing blood flow, your blood pressure goes wayyyy too high. something to consider. i'm REALLY REALLY wishing i hadn't used no-xplode...
    Thanks for the great post. Its a real service to those of us who get hit with one of these headaches and don't know what to make of it. I was also using a pre-workout high-caffiene NO-boosting supplement just prior to my first exertion headache. I went to the doc and she ordered an MRI and MRA. I get those tomorrow. But if you ever get a headache do a google search for "exertion headache" and "medscape." It's a great resource. (Moderators wouldn't let me post the link.)
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    Registered User bentlemp's Avatar
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    Just joined here specifically because of the headaches.

    Was training as a kick boxer and lifting hard. At the time my only supplementation was BSN No-Xplode and Creatine.

    Was jumping rope during my warm-up for kickboxing when the exertion headache came on. It made it impossible to train. I immediately stopped the supplements and within a week was back to normal. This had happened previously about two years prior when I was just weight training. Was taking the same supplements, quit them, and the headaches went away.

    I dont know if its the No-Xplode or the Creatine but the supplements had to have something to do with it. I dont use any now and have never had a problem since I went off them. That's the only variable.

    Quite frankly, it sucks because I was having some fantastic workouts and results on that combination.

    My question... since I was seeing such good results, are there any other pre-workout supplements (i.e. Jack3d, etc) that have a similar effect to No-Xplode but do not have any reported issues? What about a Creatine substitute?
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    Originally Posted by bentlemp View Post
    Just joined here specifically because of the headaches.

    Was training as a kick boxer and lifting hard. At the time my only supplementation was BSN No-Xplode and Creatine.

    Was jumping rope during my warm-up for kickboxing when the exertion headache came on. It made it impossible to train. I immediately stopped the supplements and within a week was back to normal. This had happened previously about two years prior when I was just weight training. Was taking the same supplements, quit them, and the headaches went away.

    I dont know if its the No-Xplode or the Creatine but the supplements had to have something to do with it. I dont use any now and have never had a problem since I went off them. That's the only variable.

    Quite frankly, it sucks because I was having some fantastic workouts and results on that combination.

    My question... since I was seeing such good results, are there any other pre-workout supplements (i.e. Jack3d, etc) that have a similar effect to No-Xplode but do not have any reported issues? What about a Creatine substitute?
    Creatine is nice but its very subtle. It would only cause headaches indirectly if you were dehydrated because it does require you to drink more water. Based on my old workout logs, I lifted more weight and more reps when I was on it, but it never really made me feel any different.
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    Registered User Fairfax's Avatar
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    I had this for a little while a couple of years ago. Only got them on bench press and hack squat, the first exercises of those 2 training days - never got them on back/bi days. I struggled through the workouts a couple of times but usually had to bail. I was using a particular test booster at the time - stopped taking it and the headaches stopped instantly. They've never come back, no matter what else I've been taking. So in my case it was nothing serious, just an odd reaction to a supp.
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    Found This

    I used to get these seven or so years ago. I had MRI and MRA of my head done and nothing was wrong. No answers but many gym sessions cut short and I was shuffled into an office at the gym and just resting for an hour or two. Last night I got one again doing some front squats, forgot how bad they hurt. I could barely drive home and shower. A few hours later and I could function but am still not 100%. Saw this video and did a few of the movements but will be working on the rest today.

    It was mobilitywod episode-227-slaying-the-exertional-headache-beast.
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    Registered User nismo29732's Avatar
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    I know this is an old thread, but I have the same almost exact problems, except my headache usually comes the day after leg day.
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    Registered User Trindaz's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by nismo29732 View Post
    I know this is an old thread, but I have the same almost exact problems, except my headache usually comes the day after leg day.
    I'm the same mate - just came on here to see if anyone else had similar symptoms. It started with my neck around 5th rep, 2nd set on the leg press. Crazy neck pain for about an hour, then moved to headache, and I've had the headache since then, which was 2 days ago. If I'm resting (lying down) then it goes away, but as soon as I move around it starts to come back.

    Hoping it goes away soon.
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    This was an issue for me about a year ago that began only during heavy lifts and then became a regular thing that occurred during any style of resistance training. I would get a sharp pain from the back of my neck that would quickly turn into excruciating headaches. I basically took 2 weeks off and haven't had any similar symptoms since. I do not know the exact cause but feel that it was simply due to some form of over excretion.
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    Based on my readings, this has something to do with blood pressure. Better consult your Physician to take a necessary precaution on this.
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    I too am having the exact same pain. Tried taking 4 days off. Tried to do some hanging leg raises today, by #8 felt the headache starting to come on again. Immediately stopped and the headache went away after about 5 minutes. Any kind of strain and I can feel it coming on. Guess I'm going to take a full week off, get a massage and see what happens. Will report back in a few days.

    Btw, these headaches suck.

    Spent the last 2 years in the gym getting back in shape. Nothing worse than to being able to go.
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    sometimes when im doing a chest press workout or a shoulder press, i recieve a wierd headache and it only last about a minute but its very painfull
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    Cool Exertion headache! BUMMER!

    I have the same problem. The past four weeks I get terrible exertion headaches in the back of my neck/base of skull. Today I worked on breathing and dropped a little bit of weight all around and my head still hurt. Just quite a bit less. I'm attributing it to the breathing, hydrating, and I cut my creatine in half. I'm gonna try to cut it out completely next work out. I took two aspirins when I got home and it felt a little better but as soon as I put an ice pack on it, it was almost completely gone! Good luck, I know it's a fkn bummer! I've been making so many gains and this throws a real wrench in my shizz.
    Corpsegrinder neck crew
    Girls squat more than me crew
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    i was doing a bench press when suddenly had the headache in the back part of the head, ive been investigating on this headache, and suprise!, your post, im suffering the same thing you experienced, the scariest thing is im getting the horrible headache at the back of the head during sex!, i feel pressure and pain right in the middle of it, ive been suffering of tense muscles around the neck for a while, ill try to fix it with some massages and aspirin, bummer to stop working out for a while , i started taking a preworkout called No shotgun but don't really know if it had something to do with it, im going to stop using it just in case...
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    Don't mean to bump this old thread but i think this should be stickied so everyone can see this.

    A lot of really good info here. I myself just got one of these nasty head aches that always comes back. Im 2 weeks in and its still happening.

    The post of dkalambac literally describes my situation word for word. A lot of good info in that post. I think more people should be aware of this if they aren't yet.

    The head aches are really nasty and last the whole day. No pill has worked for me yet to make it go away.
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    I had this issue as well. It happened when benching. I was straining with a final rep. Like a rookie, I pressed my head back into the bench hard during my strain. Didn't even realize I was doing it, but I didn't have the experience or knowledge of proper bench form at the time.

    Symptoms are exactly as described by others. Very sharp pain, subsiding into a dull ache.

    I've learned quickly that if you don't know what you're doing lifting weights can be one of the most dangerous "sports" you can do. If you know what you're doing it's probably one of the safest...
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    Primary exertion headache

    Good morning,

    I had the same problem for 2 weeks now. At first the headache starts on my last set of 15 reps at 80% when I hit 11-12 reps. But it got worst a week later even when I was in my warm up set of 15 at 50%. The headache was so bad that my eyes got blurry. But I manage to pushed through with all my reps and sets. BTW squat is my first exercise of a full body program.

    Just like anyone else the headache went dull after the squat but not completely disappear. I did talk to my primary care doctor. This ******* told me to quit doing squat. I am going to request for an MRI on Monday. Hopefully it is just a tight muscle issue. I have read about primary exertion headache and realized there are good amount of people having this issue. Some said breathing, some said neck muscle is too tight and some claim that low carb will trigger exertion headache.

    I drink 1.5g of water a day, I also watch my breathing. The only thing I did not do is stretch my neck or cardio for warm up. I will give it a try on Monday.
    Steve H. Ngo
    Currently on 12 weeks bulking program.
    Starting at 165lbs with approx 12% BF.
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    Registered User BranFlakes188's Avatar
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    glad to see these topics being bumped.I too am suffering from these things and would love to know more. I don't use no-xplode or whatever supplements previous posters have been on. Gutted that I can't lift for a while (best case scenario). Seeing doc tomorrow, I assume he'll say that I should get those scans done to rule out anything more serious
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