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Migraine after weight lifting

I'm a 29 year old male who has had migraines with aura since I was around 12 years old.
They happen 2-3 times a year and they last for about 4-7 hours.
First I get an aura where my vision disappears gradually (those zig-zag spots). Then I get an insanely bad headache where I can't do anything but lie down (sometimes I sort of pass out)

Meds don't work that well against it (triptans).

Often when I hit the gym and work out (weight lifting), I will afterwards get a migraine attack. I really want to work out, but it's to much pain and too exhausting to get these attacks on a regular basis.

Is there any way to find out what specifically triggers my attacks, or is there anything I can do about?

- I have seen a specialist and she just told me I should go do something less stressfull for my body, but that doesn't solve the problem.

Thanks.. 😀

  1. Hi runel, thank you for your question. I'm really sorry the specialist wasn't more helpful. Is this someone with whom you've worked for a long time? It could be helpful to seek a second opinion to find someone who can provide the care and attention you deserve. But I know that takes time, so I'm going to refer you to this article that explains how to keep a migraine journal to attempt to determine your triggers:—this will also be helpful information for your specialist when you have your next appointment. And since you notice a correlation between weight lifting and your migraines already, you might be extra detailed in your migraine journal on days you visit the gym. I hope this helps you determine what your triggers are. -Martha (community moderator)

    1. Hi Martha. Thanks for your reply. I think I will seek an second opinion then.. and also try keeping a journal 😀

  2. I am 63 and have been physically active my whole life. Recently I have been having more migraines and I suspect that it has to do with weightlifting and age and diet. The aura and pain is showing up 24 to 48 hours after the exercise session. Also I might trigger them by riding my bike a long distance (30 or more miles) when I am not used to it. I upped my lifting frequency and intensity this past winter and had quite a few migraines. I also think that when my diet includes fermented foods I will get them so I eliminated these. I used to do home ferments thinking they were great and also fun. I tried making cheese too but I figure that these are best left to the professionals. I think consistency and gradual increases in exercise are a best practice. Too long a break and getting back into the routine might be a trigger for me.

    1. Exercise as a trigger is common. Potentially, dehydration, changes in blood pressure, blood sugar levels, mineral balance, muscle tension, homonal swings, or other exercise related phenomenon can be triggers.

      I saw a documentary about a competative weightlifter whose migraines abated when she took a break from lifting. But she insited on returning and the migraines returned. (Not the focus of the film, though)

      I'd encourage you to meet with a trainer and see how you can enjoy the gym and meet your goals with different exercises.

      And to be sure to mind your water, food, minerals etc.

      You'll find many posts here about how "pushing through" or ingnoring known triggers just isn't worth it.

      Alternatively, the trigger might be something besides the exercise itself. Such as the gym lighting, music or smells. Wearing earbuds is a trigger for some. If you always consume a certain food or drink in association with your workouts, those might be triggers. Perhaps, you encounter more pollution/traffic on gym days.

      There are soooo many things that can be triggers, but, yes, just exersice can be the culprit. Ofta

      I get exercise induced migraines. Personally, I have found the only solution for me is to exercise at much lower intensity than I once did and still love. I also stand a better chance of avoiding migraine when I stay hydrated, take magnesium and potassium, avoid over heating, and stop at the slightest hint of feeling "off" (which even then is often too late).

      Do talk to your healthcare team about your concerns.

      The app Migraine Buddy can be helpful in tracking and distiguishing multiple triggers. (So like one day you change one thing about your gym experience and something else another day).

      If you search at this site you'll find many posts about migraine and exercise.

      Best wishes in finding the workout that will work for you without migraine!

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