Many people love swimming because it is a wonderful form of exercise. Those who swim often feel refreshed and invigorated after a session. But after swimming, some people suffer from a headache. For some of these people it is because of gear, while for others it is because of the exercise. Discover the different types of headaches you may have and what you can do to prevent them. If you have a headache and you don’t find relief from simple methods of treatment, you should see a doctor for help.
What Causes Headache After Swimming?
1. External Compression Headache
This is a headache disorder caused by pressure being applied to the forehead or scalp from things like helmets, headbands or goggles. With a swimmer it is usually the goggles or the cap that causes the problem. The International Headache Society points out that this headache is not noted by throbbing sensation and tends to resolve itself once the pressure is gone, therefore not needing medication. However, if the pressure is prolonged, the headache can become a migraine.
2. Supraorbital Neuralgia
This is an unusual facial disorder and goggles are often to blame. The pain is located in the center of the forehead which the supraorbital nerve supplies. Those with this disorder tend to have constant pain or spasms over the nerve. It can be relieved by nerve ablation or anesthetic nerve blockade. People with a supraorbital notch are more prone to a headache after swimming. This is because the nerve is more vulnerable.
3. Primary Exertional Headache
These headaches can develop just from swimming, especially if it is strenuous. This is a throbbing headache that can last from five minutes to 48 hours. It can happen during the activity or after. It is often accompanied by nausea and happens more often to men than women. It also happens more often in hot weather and high altitudes.
It isn’t a worrisome condition. Your doctor can perform a neurological exam to diagnose it and rule out other more worrisome headache causes. To treat this headache, indomethacin is typically prescribed.
4. Sinus Headache
One of the more common types of headache after your swimming is a sinus headache. Viruses and other bacteria are able to get into the nasal cavity and can cause inflammation. Chlorine can also irritate the nasal lining and sinus membrane, which can lead to headache and sinusitis. It’s also true that the sinuses can become plugged from pressure changes, leading to sinus headache. Salt water sprays and saline treatments are good to rinse out the nasal passages after swimming. You can use over-the-counter pain relief as needed.
5. Other Causes
- Headaches can also be caused by dehydration.
- Not breathing regularly or holding your breath can cause headaches from a decrease in the circulation of oxygen.
- You may have got water in your ear, which can cause a headache as well.
How to Prevent Headache After Swimming
Follow some of the below tips to prevent headache:
- Place your goggles on carefully and gently. Also, try different positions to avoid extended pressure.
- Try a variety of goggles to find the ones with the most comfortable fit. Look for ones with soft rubber and smaller seal areas around the eyes.
- Use ear plugs to help keep water out of your ears.
- Use a cap that is loose fitting to insure comfort.
- Stay hydrated while in or out of the pool.
- Avoid diving in the deep water. Ocean swimming will also reduce your chance of a headache because the salt water acts as a natural medium for irrigation.
- Breathe in a relaxed and linear fashion so that you can take another breath after a stroke or two. Practice your breathing methods when you are out of the water to get more familiar with it.
- Don’t exert yourself or go back in the pool until your headache is gone.
You Are Not Alone
“This past Saturday I went swimming for a couple of hours. Before I was feeling fine but when I dived down about 10 feet or so, my head would throb painfully. After swimming I felt fine again but then later when I went to bed I started getting headaches again. This time they would pulsate to the rhythm of my heart, very painfully. Every time I walked, each step was painful. What can I do? Help!”
“Recently I have been having trouble. When I’m swimming, after a bit in, I started to get a horrible headache. This was just a few weeks ago. I’ve been swimming for a little over a year and never had any trouble before. This time the pain was almost like a migraine it was so unbearable. Is there anyone else with a problem like this? Looking for any input. I really want to swim without getting a headache after swimming.”