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View Full Version : Sudden onset headache on last bench press rep?



jsflynn603
03-31-2007, 01:46 PM
About four days ago I was doing standard bench press reps with 135lbs. Not a lot of weight for most here but consider that I was doing 55 not much more than two months ago I'm happy.

I attempt to use good form and try to drop down over three seconds, and up over two seconds. I don't do rapid reps. On this day I got to seven reps and figured that a friend was nearby and so pushed the last rep to eight. I got it half-way up and then slowed. It took me about 7 seconds to finish the rep. Just near the end I got an awful headache. I thought maybe I caused a CVA (Cerebro-vascular accident, formerly called a stroke) but there were no deficits that I could perceive. The headache went away in a few hours.

Then last night, at the same weight, again on the bench, the last rep slowed a bit, but not as much, and another sudden onset headache. This was not as bad and went away in half an hour.

I did some research and came up with this:

"PRIMARY EXERTIONAL HEADACHE
A primary exertional headache occurs following a strenuous, exertional effort such as physical exercise, athletic activity or weight lifting. It is also a sudden onset headache and it is bilateral in location. Unlike the cough headache, the pain is often pulsatile and lasts anywhere from five minutes to forty-eight hours."

Yes it could be a small CVA, what is called a "sentinel incident," but I really doubt it and I'm not about to rack up four grand to hear "you're fine." (read no insurance at the moment).

Has anyone heard about this? Experienced it? If so what was done?

Am I doing the reps improperly, or should I not take 4-10 seconds to complete my last rep? I thought it best to work to failure.

Any suggestions for alternate exercises that would be less likely to increase blood pressure? Are there any useful pec exercises that can be done one side at a time?

I add weight when I can do 6-8 reps to failure. Usually doing 3 sets. Any thoughts on using lower weights with higher reps? I really don't know a lot about what I'm doing.

Thank you all....

Btw.... I'm 24% BMI, normally my BP is 117-126/67-74 without any meds. I have no family history of CVA's and no potentially confounding medical conditions or medications. I'm in fairly good cardiovascular condition with a 59 pulse rate upon waking.

dbx
03-31-2007, 02:08 PM
That's a long post for what probably amounts to you not breathing on that last rep :D

Seriously.....you were stressed and not used to being "stuck", and chances are you simply held your breath. Very common. Just remember to breathe :).

joed
03-31-2007, 02:10 PM
If you do a search here on this topic you'll find some interesting info. One thing I wonder is if you're holding your breath while trying to finish the lift; if so, keep breathing throughout the exercise.
(edit) just saw the dbx post as I entered mine.

Chipman
03-31-2007, 02:10 PM
Are you breathing properly?

jsflynn603
03-31-2007, 02:27 PM
Are you breathing properly?

Yes, I'm an RN and am aware of the Valsalva effect, as well as increased BP relative to exertion and holding one's breath. Especially when I slow I always breath steadily and deeply. On the first instance I probably breathed six to eight times on the push. It'd be nice if that was the issue, but I really don't think it is. In emergency medicine improper breathing is often an issue.

Actually it is my norm to slow that way on the last rep working to exhaustion either with free weights or machines. There was actually less anxiety that time since I had a friend spotting me which usually I don't have. This however let me go a bit farther than I would have alone. I wasn't stressed in the least and can't ever remember feeling stressed working out.

Thanks for the comments. I'll ask someone to watch my breathing...to make sure.

StartinOver-68
03-31-2007, 03:15 PM
I've had a similiar thing happen to me on BP's. In every instance it was a forced rep and I would find myself bridging. Or in other words forcing pressure on my neck by using the back of my head as leverage. Several times I could also hear an audible snap.
I don't know if that info will help, but try relaxing the neck if you can.

Revmachine21
03-31-2007, 08:07 PM
I have a slightly different spin from years of balancing the headache trifecta of bio-mechanical, bio-chemical, and food sensitivity....

During your lift, you may have caused a temporary vertebrae &/or disk misalignment, or musculature strain.

How's your head & neck posture, shoulder posture during your lifts? During life outside the gym?

A visit to a doctor might be in order if I had any of the following symptoms:
- A repeat event during lifting
- Tingling, numbness, or weakness in one or both arms & hands
- Progressive worsening of popping in one or both shoulders
- An inward roll to shoulders
- A forward head posture
- Any sharp pain in side of neck or down from neck to shoulders
- Any weird sense of pressure, discomfort, or pain in neck & base of skull

wubby
03-31-2007, 08:51 PM
Has it gotten better yet?

Something similar happened to me about 3 weeks ago doing squats. I thought I had hit the base of my scull on my Manta Ray (long thread a while back due to this and no, I am not using it anymore). Turns out that could not have been the case because it does not stick forward there. It was right while I was straining on my last rep and I looked up a little too far. I don't know if I screwed up a vertebrae, or strained a muscle. It ended up being the worst headache I have ever had. It still feels stiff and I get the headache a little once in a while, but it had gotten better. This week I was able to push my workouts harder than I have since the incident.

jsflynn603
04-01-2007, 12:10 PM
I've had a similiar thing happen to me on BP's. In every instance it was a forced rep and I would find myself bridging. Or in other words forcing pressure on my neck by using the back of my head as leverage. Several times I could also hear an audible snap.
I don't know if that info will help, but try relaxing the neck if you can.

Thanks...

I'll try looking at that... I tighten my scapulas to stabilize the rotator cuffs as I have a problem on the right especially, and always keep my butt tensed and on the bench... but I might be doing that...

I asked my friend Dave who is frequent to say "breath" to anyone and who was standing there watching me when I had the first headache...he said that my breathing seemed fine.

The whole thing is sorta' depressing.

Anyone for good exercises that would do the same...

jsflynn603
04-01-2007, 12:17 PM
During your lift, you may have caused a temporary vertebrae &/or disk misalignment, or musculature strain.

How's your head & neck posture, shoulder posture during your lifts? During life outside the gym?

A visit to a doctor might be in order if I had any of the following symptoms:
- A repeat event during lifting
- Tingling, numbness, or weakness in one or both arms & hands
- Progressive worsening of popping in one or both shoulders
- An inward roll to shoulders
- A forward head posture
- Any sharp pain in side of neck or down from neck to shoulders
- Any weird sense of pressure, discomfort, or pain in neck & base of skull

I try to watch my form and posture both at the gym and away. I have to...I'm too damned short! Good posture gives me half an inch.... *grin*

I agree with your list, and would add....

Go to a mirror, smile (look for assymetry); stick your tongue out, rotate it, turn it in all dirctions, whistle, squinch each eye separately and together, say a little ditty. If any deficits occur, or lack of strength in a limb...It may be a CVA and I'd consider it a medical emergency as CVA's (stroke) cure rate is a function of time... I did this, and no deficits...

And yes, it does re-occur, I'm going to try to speed up my reps and drop back a rep or two to failure....

Revmachine21
04-02-2007, 06:56 AM
Go to a mirror, smile (look for assymetry); stick your tongue out, rotate it, turn it in all dirctions, whistle, squinch each eye separately and together, say a little ditty. If any deficits occur, or lack of strength in a limb...It may be a CVA and I'd consider it a medical emergency as CVA's (stroke) cure rate is a function of time... I did this, and no deficits...

And yes, it does re-occur, I'm going to try to speed up my reps and drop back a rep or two to failure....

Cool, nice addition!

I hope you start feeling better. If you aren't getting better, please think about a trip to an MD. You really ought not live with a headaches if you can avoid it. Absolutely miserable things....

One other thing occurred to me today. The main blood supply for the brain passes up through the cervical vertebrae into the skull. Those vessels can be impinged or restricted with vertebrae misalignment, restricting blood flow to brain. May be worth an x-ray or MRI. There is rehab available for cervical issues... I'm living proof of this!

Good luck...

hanroh
06-06-2013, 01:53 AM
i was searching for posts related to this..... and i found yours...
i had the same problem yesterday itself... i did my last rep of the decline dumbbell press, and as i got up in a sitting position my head started paining....


is it normal i mean is there any thing to worry abt
my pulse is around 45-50 at the time of waking up.

MidnightXpress
06-07-2013, 06:22 PM
i was searching for posts related to this..... and i found yours...
i had the same problem yesterday itself... i did my last rep of the decline dumbbell press, and as i got up in a sitting position my head started paining....


is it normal i mean is there any thing to worry abt
my pulse is around 45-50 at the time of waking up.

Yeah it happened to me just this morning- had barely gotten to the gym, head started to hurt toward end of my 2nd set on bench press, then at end of 3rd set it hurt so bad I had to just quit and eventually go home. Head is still a bit sore but not throbbing anymore, pain came initially from rear base of skull and travelled generally toward my eye/temple.

This has actually happened to me before a couple of times, though not for at least 9 months. 2 times before, the pain was centered in my temple- so this rear skull pain is new. No idea what causes it, though it does concern me. I do have hypertension and take blood pressure medication, so something like a stroke or a burst blood vessel does enter my mind! However, I've been told it may be due to a neck strain/ or vertebre shift such as stories in posts above. I needed to see my doctor about something else anyway, so I scheduled an appointment for Monday. I believe he's diagnosed this to likely be a muscle strain in my neck in the past, but I'll ask him again for a 2nd opinion.
yes this totally sucks since once it starts, I usually have to just shut down my workout and go home- any weight lifting strain just causes the pain to throb more. Usually I'm fine again after 1 or 2 days of rest, but I have felt remnants of where the pain was centered up to a week afterward- weird stuff!

Corbi
06-07-2013, 08:11 PM
Yeah it happened to me just this morning- had barely gotten to the gym, head started to hurt toward end of my 2nd set on bench press, then at end of 3rd set it hurt so bad I had to just quit and eventually go home. Head is still a bit sore but not throbbing anymore, pain came initially from rear base of skull and travelled generally toward my eye/temple.

This has actually happened to me before a couple of times, though not for at least 9 months. 2 times before, the pain was centered in my temple- so this rear skull pain is new. No idea what causes it, though it does concern me. I do have hypertension and take blood pressure medication, so something like a stroke or a burst blood vessel does enter my mind! However, I've been told it may be due to a neck strain/ or vertebre shift such as stories in posts above. I needed to see my doctor about something else anyway, so I scheduled an appointment for Monday. I believe he's diagnosed this to likely be a muscle strain in my neck in the past, but I'll ask him again for a 2nd opinion.
yes this totally sucks since once it starts, I usually have to just shut down my workout and go home- any weight lifting strain just causes the pain to throb more. Usually I'm fine again after 1 or 2 days of rest, but I have felt remnants of where the pain was centered up to a week afterward- weird stuff!

Maybe it's a tumor? Or what's even cooler is an aneurysm.

PS strong 6 yr bump.

0thersid3
06-11-2013, 07:39 PM
I think we're popping blood vessels in the back of our heads.

I've gotten it before, but I also recently got it last week. I took the week off lifting to let it heal and I was back in the gym today decline benching. Felt the tension build up rapidly in my neck/back of head on my last rep and put the weights down immediately. I took a two minute rest after that and was good to go. Man those headaches can be so demotivating.

dbp
06-11-2013, 08:30 PM
This started happening to me recently. My last four Squat/deadlift days.

If would come on extremely suddenly and at random during my top set. Sometimes on rep 3, other times on rep 8.

It would last a while too, like hours after I finished. I also felt nauseous. I'm 99% sure it was related to holding my breath throughout the set... especially since I've been doing higher reps lately. Adjusted my breathing and no more issues.

It's very annoying when it happens though.

jimir2
09-04-2014, 03:07 PM
This happened to me exactly last night and I thought I was a goner. A forced bench rep with improper breathing lead to an intense pain that moved forward to the front of my head and then back. It's about 18 hours later and it lingers a little in a throbbing way. This is definitely an exertion headache and they're generally nothing to worry about. I get classic migraines and am at higher risk for them. If you get dizzy or puke go to a doctor right away.

BTudlik
08-16-2015, 11:02 AM
Hey guys,

This has happened to me a couple of times. I, too, had headache, nausea, ear ringing and dizziness. I've seen an orthopedic surgeon, a rheumatologist, a neurologist, physio therapist, ear nose and throat specialist, had MRI of my neck, brain, ears and the connecting nerves done. They all said I'm totally fine, but I still have this every now and then. I also did a lot of research and came to a conclusion.

Here's the thing. It has nothing to do with breathing. My trapezius muscles, especially in my neck, are very tight, also my back is flat. This is due to stress and sitting with forward head posture in all my teenage years. When I do BP these muscles tighten even more and at least one of these three things happen:
1. the muscles compress the blood vessels in my neck, the ones which transfer blood into my brain
2. the muscles compress the nerves in my neck
3. the muscles cause the vertebrae to shift and that's what compresses/demages the blood vessels/nerves

I'm not sure which one is my problem, all the doctors say I'm fine. I have to add that I've been cracking my neck since I was 15, the doctors say that couldn't cause the problems, but the physio therapist says that my neck is way too flexible, which makes me assume that my vertebrae might shift when I BP with bad head posture. Although I pay attention to it and make sure the back of my neck is flat on the bench and my head is not forward.

What helped me a lot was going to a masseur to loosen up my muscles, also stretching my neck and trapezius a lot. Find videos on youtube about how to stretch your neck muscles and fix forward head posture.

It's still not perfect and never will be as I've already f*cked up my spine and neck but I hope I could help you.
Good luck!

Tomhall164
08-29-2015, 09:08 PM
I had this same problem as well and it's gone away now after I saw a Physio. It can be caused by a lot of things.

Firstly make sure you're breathing through reps and that will always help. Make sure you aren't clenching your teeth when you bench because that can also onset a headache.

In my case it was caused because I had been in a tackle in rugby where I'd hurt my neck. Didn't even notice it though and played for the next 6 weeks and got continuos headaches whenever I benched though. After going to a physio he noticed that I could look 3 cm more to the right than I could to the left. He sent some electricity into my neck and gave me some stretches and bam, within in week the headaches were gone.

Best of luck bro, get it checked with a physio😊

Bursy
01-06-2017, 03:23 PM
I had exactly this problem. Everything I read said it was a breathing problem but I'm very careful to breath evenly throughout each set.

Eventually I tried regularly doing a series of neck stretches, then built up the weight again gradually and never had a problem since.

I had a neck injury years ago and also a desk job, which doesn't help with posture so I think the neck gets really tight and maybe ends up pinching a nerve.

Anyway that worked for me, hope it helps someone else!

latverian41
01-06-2017, 03:30 PM
If it persist you need to go to the ER you may have ruptured something