Ever climb out of the pool after swimming some laps only to find yourself experiencing a terrible headache? Maybe you even get the headaches while you’re swimming. Swimmers’ headaches can develop due to a number of reasons, ranging from the type of goggles and swim caps you’re wearing, to exertion, a lack of oxygen or even dehydration. Avoid getting a headache after swimming by discovering the different types of headaches swimmers experience and why. 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 by an external force. For a swimmer, it’s usually the goggles or swim cap that causes the problem. The throbbing sensation tends to resolve itself once the pressure is absent. Once you remove the gear and wait, your headache should stop. Prolonged pressure can turn the headache into a migraine.
2. Supraorbital Neuralgia
An unusual facial disorder that wearing swimming goggles can often cause. Commonly known as “goggle headache”. 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 a procedure called nerve ablation which uses an electrical current to heat up a small area of nerve tissue. Another treatment option for supraorbital neuralgia is more short-term. A local anesthetic is injected as close to the nerve as possible to relieve the pain.
3. Primary Exercise 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. Primary exercise headache is often accompanied by nausea and happens more often to men than women. It also happens more often in hot weather and high altitudes.
“Primary” because another condition or disorder does not cause it. People who have exercise-induced headache and cardiovascular risk factors (such as: history of heart attack, coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, or smoking) should be evaluated for heart disease as a cause for their headache. Especially if headache occurs only with exercise or the pain radiates to – or from, the neck/jaw.
4. Sinus Headache
One of the more common types of headache after 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 pressure changes can plug the sinuses, 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
- Dehydration can cause headaches.
- 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 having a headache after swimming:
- 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.
- It is best to 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.
- Try not to exert yourself or go back into the pool until you’re no longer experiencing a headache.