Q+A:  I get a long headache after I run. Help!

Q After a run, I get an intense hangover-type headache that can continue for two to three days, even though I take the usual pills. I don’t drink alcohol or coffee, I drink isotonic drinks when I’m training and racing, and water the rest of the time, but could the headaches still be caused by dehydration?

A I think that you might be putting the cart before the horse in thinking that your headaches are caused by dehydration. The symptoms that you describe last far longer than the dehydration caused by a run. If you have not already seen your GP about your headaches, I urge you to. There are numerous causes that need to be investigated and eliminated.

In medical terms, your description of a hangover-type headache leaves many questions unanswered. Your doctor will need to know whether the headache is localised or generalised, what type of pain it is – whether it throbs, stabs or aches, whether it’s present on waking and whether it worsens with certain actions, such as coughing, sneezing or straining. Does it make you vomit or does the light hurt your eyes?

There are many causes of headaches. Referred pain from the cervical spine in your neck may cause problems at the back of the head, whereas pain from the sinuses can affect the area around the eyes. It’s even possible that the isotonic drinks you take could be a cause. If these are drunk in too high a concentration, they can cause headaches.

As you can see it’s impossible to say – without seeing someone in person – what’s causing a headache. You really do need to see your own GP, and they may even refer you to a specialist. I think this way you’ll be able to find a cure for what is clearly a debilitating problem.—Dr Patrick Milroy, RW Medical Advisor