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  1. #1
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    Exertion Headache

    I'm relatively new to biking and trying to go car free. I never really drove much, as I used to live in Boston, where public transportation was good, and I also lived close enough to my last job to jog the commute. I just moved in March to sprawling Buffalo NY, where I have had to take up biking to get places. After not having biked for maybe 15 years, I started bike commuting in May and have biked my 3.5 mile commute fine.

    Last week I also just started going back to school part time, which increases my commute by 5 miles on the 3 days a week that I have class. Well, I was rather fatigued and had a headache by the end of the week. I rested over the entire 3 day Labor Day weekend, and the headache got better but did not completely go away. And now the headache is back, and I have to take Advil to function properly.

    Has anyone else gotten headaches from increasing biking mileage or intensity, and how do you fix that? I'm pretty sure it's an exertional headache. I often run, and I do tend to get headaches after long runs and speed sessions. I'm trying to rest when I can, but my schedule is not that flexible as I am bike commuting. Ugh, I'm afraid to take Advil too often for fear of getting addicted, as they say you should take painkillers no more than 3 days a week, but my headache is getting bad.

  2. #2
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    You won't get addicted to Advil or any of the OTC NSAIDS, but you may end up with an ulcer if you take too much for too long. That being said Advil(ibuprofen) is very safe and can be well tolerated for even years of prescription level usage.

    You could just be dehydrated or lacking some electrolytes. But, having a headache for this long is some cause for concern.

    I used to get extreme headaches for months at a time with little breaks in between coupled with searing pain in my eyes and blurred vision. I ended up being diagnosed with Intracranial Hypertension. Basically it is my body overproducing cerebrospinal fluid causing pressure in my brain and on my optic nerves. One symptom of the disease is exercise intolerance. Frankly it sucks.

    But the moral of the story is see a doctor. Headaches are very common, but they shouldn't last for days or weeks at a time.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    Can't afford to see a doctor for now. So how do you treat your Intracranial Hypertension?

    I wonder if I also have that and some exercise intolerance. No blurred vision, but for 3 days, I did have eye pain if I rolled my eyes, but the eye pain has since gone away. When I jogged to work, it was only 1 mile each way and I jogged at an easy pace, and I did and still do sprints or long runs only once a week. I hope my increased biking mileage is not going to be more than my head can tolerate. It's only about 50 miles a week, and I was fine on my 35 miles per week commutes. I do tend to try speeding to save on the commute time, so maybe I'll need to slow down.
    Last edited by kjhspa; 09-06-06 at 01:29 PM.

  4. #4
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    I have to take Diamox and Topamax. The Diamox is to reduce the level of CSF. The Topomax is to minimize seizure like episodes like blacking out. I also have to see a neuro-ophthamologist every three months to get my eyes checked for increasing papilledema(swelling of the optic vessels) that can lead to blindness. The office visit takes 4 hours!!! I get a Humphrey Visual Field test for mapping my blind spot. Get my eyes super dialated for the exam and then off to get my retina photographed. Fun stuff.

    I also lose my vision upon rising in the morning. It is only for a few seconds but everything goes black when I get up. Occasionally I get tinnitus which is like a wooshing noise in my head when I get up from a seated position.

    They first had to rule out a brain tumor. The symptoms are the same. I would see a doctor if I were you, charge it on a credit card if you have to.

    Here is a link to this disorder. It also goes by pseudotumor cerebri since it mimics tumor symptoms.

    http://www.emedicine.com/neuro/topic329.htm


    I don't think the exercise is actually detrimental. At least I have never read that or heard it from my doctor. It is just that it is harder than it should be.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
    Light Cyclist madopal's Avatar
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    Headaches

    I've gotten headaches after long rides where I'd pushed myself. What I've figured out so far is that it seems to be related to post-ride eating (or more accurately, a lack thereof). I'd suggest checking out how much/what you're eating afterwards, especially if you're working hard. I found that a good dose of protein seems to help me.

    The last time I had what you're describing I had ridden 50 miles. I was fine after the ride, but I didn't eat for 4-6 hours afterwards, and I developed a headache that not only lasted for 3-4 days, but it seemed to get worse when I exerted myself.
    Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.
    ~H.G. Wells

  6. #6
    Senior Member AnthonyG's Avatar
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    Your problem sounds simmilar to what I experience. In my case I feel it in the neck muscles and shoulders first and it I let it go it becomes a headache. In my case its caused by magnesium deficiency which is quite common actualy. Exercise depletes us of many vitamins and minerals.

    So give up on the pain killers as they will do you more harm than good. Try some magnesium suppliments and better yet improve your diet in general with green vegetables and fresh food. Also I have found that omega 3 rich fish oil to have realy strong anti-inflamitory properties and it releives my headaches better than ANY drug! Serious. Fish oil is just so good for you in so many ways.

    Regards, Anthony

  7. #7
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Also I have found that omega 3 rich fish oil to have realy strong anti-inflamitory properties and it releives my headaches better than ANY drug!
    Obviously you have never taken morphine.
    "Ride lots." -- Eddy Merckx

  8. #8
    roadie (mostly)
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    How much water do you drink in a day? Maybe you're just chronically dehydrated. My headaches are almost always caused by dehydration; however, they usually do not last more than a day.

  9. #9
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    Thanks to all who have responded. I think my problem was a combination of lack of food and water. I drink about a gallon of water a day when I have access to the filtered water at work, but when I am at home on weekends and over the Labor Day holiday, I drink less, maybe closer to 10 cups a day, as I don't know how clean the tap water is. It seems also that since Tuesday, when I ate often (3 times a day), I didn't have a headache, but when I ate less often on Wednesday (one small portion before work and one large meal after work, which is what I normally do), I got a bad headache. I also ate just twice a day on the weekend when my headache wouldn't go away. Well, I hope controlling the headaches will just be as simple as drinking plenty of water and eating often, although I used to be mostly fine eating just twice or once a day. Better to be fat than getting horrible headaches (well, I'm of normal weight, just unable to be thin while still feeling healthy).

  10. #10
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    I get those kind of headaches when I ride in heat/sun and not enough water.

    BTW, watch your iburofen intake. I had to take quite a bit for a stint and I was covered in bruises for months. Just about anything made me bruise, but especially bicycle related activities, which is the majority of my physical activity. Going on an ibuprofen diet stopped it.

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