Migraine when I run fast - will it improve?

So I've ben running for 18 months and my training is going really well. However since I started running 5k and 5 mile races and now this week doing shorter intervals (0.5 mile * 4) I've been suffering migraine attacks almost every time I go under 6 min miles.

I've now had them during two parkruns, after I ran 5 mile race in 31:17 and last night during all four of my 0.5 mile intervals at just under 3 minutes for each one (really one long attack I suppose).

Anyone who has suffered will know that after the attack you then suffer for about the next day so this is more than inconvenient.

I'm guessing this is something to do with blood flow to the brain being disturbed by what my body must feel is extreme effort - so I am wondering if I persist then will my body get used to this speed and maybe I would only get attacks at say 5:30 min miles?

Has anyone else experienced this and can they tell me what happened to them/if their migraines improved?

I've been to doctors and opticians and there is nothing wrong with my eyes/blood pressure.

Thanks, Skinny


  • Skinny, I have also had the odd attack after particularly tough sessions - probably 4-5 times over the past two years, and once actually during the last few kilometres of a half marathon which took a couple of days to recover from. 

    I only get them if I push past a certain intensity - so I have to be at the 'nausea' stage of effort already and my solutuon has been - don't!  Which does inhibit really pushing extra hard in training.  But it's the intensity rather than the speed per se, so yes, as you get fitter the migraines would only kick in at a higher pace.  But they are still there lurking image

    I take Magnesium supplements every day anyway, which helps me manage overall migraine frequency (almost all have been exercise-induced over that time).  If you know what your other triggers are maybe try to be more concious of not exposing yourself to them whilst you are building up fitness?


  • Louise - thanks for reply - are you StevieG's sister?image

    I don't take any supplements but in the last week I've finally decided to stop drinking red wine imageimageimageand eating cheese image and chocolateimage.

    My wife is obsessed with supplements - why do magnesium supplements help with migraines?

    Thanks again, Skinny

  • I could be StevieG's feminine alter ago?  But he runs a lot faster than I do....

    Yes you may have a point with red wine, cheese and chocolate (and processed meats like ham too by the way).  Coffee?

    Not sure why the Magnesium works, other than it's involved in (allegedly) a lot of intercellular processes.  I can only say empahtically it helps me - brought me down from 30+ per year to more like 4/5, which is massive.  If I go off them I get a migraine after about 10 days (I've experimented).

  • imageOh no!! Sounds like bacon sarnies are going to bite the dust too - I'll have to change my name to Even Skinnier Fetish Fan!

    I've already stopped coffee about a year ago as was getting restless legs at night - I'm pretty certain my wife told me I needed to take magnesium supplements if I was getting restless legs (I ignored her of course).

    Does sound like I might have a magnesium deficiency though - this thread may have been very useful - thank you so much for your help.

  • You might be able to find out more if you google the phrase "exertion-induced headache". For instance, see what the Migraine Trust has to say.

    Not being funny, but just be sure you are actually having a migraine, not a headache, or you could be giving up cheese and wine pointlessly image  I'm thinking you could be saying "migraine" for a bad headache in the way that men are supposed to call a bad cold "the flu" or wanting to keep things tidy is called a "phobia" of being messy (or indeed temper tantrums are now called Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder in DSM 5 image )

    You have my sympathy either way. I used to get exertion headache on everything over about an hour's running but I haven't had one for years now so there could be a bright side.

  • My migraines are differentiated from 'normal' headaches by the typical migraine symptoms of;  visual aura lasting 30 - 60 minutes, temporary speech problems, pain localised in one hemisphere, intense lethargy for 1 - 4 hours, and recovery 24 - 48 hours.  They are definitely migraines.  And I've been having them for 35 years. But then I am a laydee so quite tough. 

  • Luckily I have been several months now without a migraine - in fact since running, I've had no more than 2 or 3 migraines over the past 16months. Usually for me it is associated with really tight muscles in the neck and shoulder on the same side that the migraine headache starts (usually above left or right eye).

    Does this come on really quickly or is it gradual. For me it was always gradual, and would build to the point of feeling sick - then its a lie down in darkened room for a day or two. Just wondered how tense you are getting at 6:00 min/m.

    So far I've not noticed any link with running bringing on my migraine. I get normal headaches from the odd bit of dehydration / overexertion / tiredness, but that is after the event.

    I was never sure if the tension was a result of the migraine or the cause. I had loads of physio/massage  many years ago on the NHS for this, but it didn't do much for me. Just a thought though on how releaxed you are at faster speeds.

  • I've had migraines (aura etc) after races, usually shorter faster races. They've come on during the cool down, I've found eating something, even chocolate helps to reduce the intensity of the attack. 

  • SteveC - thanks for link to Migraine Trust - I'll follow that up. It is definitely migraine which is very different to an exertion headache - I have had these after long runs but the migraines I am suffering are diamonds splintering and slowly fillling my vision, with some numbness and banging headaches to follow plus that day after kind of hollow head feeling that a migraine leves you with.

    LouiseG - I'm running PBs through my migraines and I'm a maaan image.

    After your really helpful advice yesterday I went googling for mgraines and magnesium and found this link http://www.drbriffa.com/2012/06/07/magnesium-for-migraine/ - so as of last night I'm trying to give up wheat too - that's going to be really tough as it's what I've always used to keep my rather light weight up.

    Also-ran - thanks for reply - it tends to happen quite quickly once I am running at fast speeds but can come on after a race too (which is more convenient!). The parkrun pb was run on a 3 lap course and on the middle lap I couldn't really see anything plus can't help worrying if its okay to keep pushing when the attack is ongoing. Pleased to hear that running seems to have helped reduce yours though - perhaps your diet has improved too? See link above.

    Vellooo - sounds like the same kind of thing as me - I've actually started packing two paracetamol whenever I go for a race now and a banana but most of them are actually happening during so this is a helfpul cure of the symptoms but I am hoping I can find a prevention. If I find anytihng out from Migraine Trust I will post it on here.

    Cheees Everyone, Skinny

  • If I take my magnesium I can tolerate a cup of coffee per day (big treat, I love my coffee).

    Also- ran, good question re the neck tension, I often notice that when I do have a migraine my neck is particularly stiff, also not sure cause / effect but I think it is a contributing trigger.  Sometimes a big weather-related atomospheric pressure change can trigger them too.  And some perfumes.  And flashing lights. image

    Chocolate has lots of lovely caffeine which helps constrict the blood vessels; one migraine theory is that the pain is caused by the rapid dilation of blood vessels in the brain, caffeine helps offset that and is used in some of the migraine-specific painkillers.  Personally I'd rather have the chocolate image

  • Reading the Migraine Trust website has to be the most frustrating way to spend half an hour.

    For an ailment that is suffered by such a large percentage of the population it is incredible how many of the answers to the FAQ are ' no-one really knows....'

    I think I have learned more from the responses on this thread!

    Cheers, Skinny

  • Ouch! You have my sympathy, I occasionally get exercise-induced migraines but from things like intense yoga classes or weights sessions where a lot of pressure has been put on the muscles in my neck and shoulders (which are already tight thanks to desk job), rather than running.

    Do you think perhaps that you are more tense through the upper body when you are doing the shorter distances? Perhaps try doing some dynamic stretches specifically to loosen up the muscles in shoulders and upper back before and after you start the run?

    Hope you find a solution, migranes are horrible things.

  • Just to add a bit to what everyone else has said - some people feel their migraine as either hot or cold. Mine were most definitely cold, with a chilly, shivery feeling over the affected half of my head and neck. Applying the opposite temperature can give quite a lot of relief, and for me that was a hot water bottle at the back of my neck.  I appreciate that this may be quite tricky during/immediately after training, but just a suggestion. (If it's hot you need, those wee 'snap to activate' hand warmers might work).  I also found the most effective (just to take the edge off, nothing shifted them) pain relief was paracetamol and a mug of proper brewed coffee.  I discovered this while pregnant and unable to take anything stronger, and found that my migraines during pregnancy were accompanied by an immense craving for coffee!

    Hope you get on top of it soon

  • PS If you know anyone who does yoga, get them to teach you the arm stretch from the eagle pose. It's the best thing for releasing tension across your shoulders

  • Thanks for that tip NR - I will investigate the arm stretch!

  • Office YogaEagle Arms video from Answers.com Videos

    It's better if someone can go through it with you face to face, but this is quite a good demonstration.  

    I find I get the best stretch by focusing on lifting my elbows while dropping my shoulder blades, as I breathe out

  • Bliddy iPhone won't let me put the first bit in as a link

  • NR this video of eagle arms is pretty much the same thing and its apparently part of a series of yoga things to do when you have a spare moment alone in a lift image

  • Just a quick little update - I did parkrun on Saturday in a new PB and didn't have a migraine - avoided the quick surge start so although my first mile was 5:55 it was probably a steadier 5:55 than some of my other runs which have probably started at 5:30 pace and then slowed.

    Also taking the magnesium supplement daily - early days so fingers crossed.

    Thanks for all helpful advice - I haven't tried 'eagle arms' yet.

    Cheers, Skinny

  • Well done on the PB image.  I'd be interested in a few days whether your general well-being improves with the Magnesium.

Sign In or Register to comment.