Whenever I have a question that Google cannot answer, I come to you!


Has anyone out there ever gotten a headache half a day after lifting weights, particularly after using the back, shoulders, and arm muscles?  I seem to always get a splitting headache about twelve to twenty four hours after I lift.  I rolled my head around a bit and could tell that my upper back and neck are super tight.  The headache isn’t immediate, which makes me think it’s related to tight muscles.


I don’t lift a lot of weight (because I’m simply not that strong) and only lift to the point of fatigue – it’s not like I’m crushing it in the weight room.  Anyone have a solution?  Honestly, this happens frequently enough that it turns me off of lifting in general.  Do I just need to stretch out after lifting?


Headache aside, it’s shaping up to be a fine Saturday.  I woke up around 7 and had a mini breakfast before going back to sleep for another three hours… Bliss.


Breakfast #2 was a Pumpkin Pancake.  I did Greek yogurt with some protein powder mixed in as a topping.  IMG_7668

Better than maple syrup, as I always say!


Off to relax this headache away…


Name Your 5K Giveaway Winner


The winner of the Name Your 5K Giveaway is… Kayla @ The Best Things.  Congrats!



  • Ali March 10, 2012, 11:17 am

    I get headaches after doing shoulders or back, and it’s always related to tightness where my neck meets my shoulders. I’m sure it’s also related to everyday shoulder tension from sitting at the computer.
    I make my husband give me massages and it goes away 🙂

  • allison March 10, 2012, 11:17 am

    sometimes when the muscles in your shoulders, upper back and neck become tight, it can cause a pain referral in your head. Make sure to stretch really well and massage shoulders, neck, back and head (or better yet, get the hubs to do it!) This should bring fresh blood flow to your muscles and help reduce pain referral. Good luck!!!

  • kathleen @ the daily crumb March 10, 2012, 11:18 am

    hope you feel better! unfortunately i have no answers on the headache query 🙂 breakfast looks delicious!

  • Bjork March 10, 2012, 11:22 am

    I do too! Mostly when I do upper body and then I relate it to tight shoulders, I’d love to see what others say

    …that pancake looks delicious 🙂

  • Devon March 10, 2012, 11:24 am

    Sounds like you might be getting cervicogenic headaches. Try working on your posture while lifting and stretch afterward!

    • CaitlinHTP March 11, 2012, 12:16 pm

      My posture SUCKS especially due to the pregnancy (curving forward). So this is definitely a possibility.

  • Ali March 10, 2012, 11:25 am

    I get headaches with lifting as well – usually a little yoga and stretching makes it at least a bit better. I also get terrible headaches with workouts that involve going from standing to being down on the ground and repeating (like jumping jacks to pushups to jump rope to mountain climbers). Not fun and I have yet to find a good way around that headache except to just skip those types of workouts.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) March 10, 2012, 11:28 am

    I would definitely stretch after lifting and continue to stretch those muscles throughout the day. My guess is that it has to do with blood flow in that area after straining the muscles. Do you get the same headaches when you do yoga or is it specific to lifting weights?

    • CaitlinHTP March 10, 2012, 11:29 am

      Sometimes it happens after yoga too if I do a lot of chaturangas or other upper body strength stuff.

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing March 10, 2012, 11:35 am

    I’ve never really thought about it but you’re right.. whenever I don’t stretch out those muscles, I will ALWAYS get a headache.

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More March 10, 2012, 11:35 am

    I’m interested to hear the answer to this question, so please share if you get one!
    I know that I can tell when my headaches are due to tight muscles, but I’ve never paid attention to it corresponding with my recent lifting. You’d think I would, but I haven’t. And now I will! 😉

  • Emily March 10, 2012, 11:44 am

    I would suspect you’ve misaligned your spine (more than likely your cervical spine if you are working on shoulders) while lifting. Subluxation of the spine can cause headaches, nausea, dizziness, and overall decreased health.


    • CaitlinHTP March 11, 2012, 12:16 pm

      Hmm I’ll ask my father in law. He’s a chiro. Thanks!

  • Maria March 10, 2012, 11:48 am

    hmm…is this something that has started since you’ve gotten pregnant? The other day I went to spinning and I had a really had headache the rest of the day :-/ Maybe try drinking more water and when you lift, make sure your shoulders stay relaxed and away from your ears.

    • CaitlinHTP March 11, 2012, 12:17 pm

      No, it always happened.

  • Cynthia March 10, 2012, 11:54 am

    It’s funny you ask because I got 2 really bad migraines this week right after lifting weights. I do find that I get migraines after working out more if I am not hydrated. So if I know I am going to lift weights, I drink a LOT of water beforehand. That helps a lot. Also stretching after lifting weights helps as well.

  • Fallon March 10, 2012, 12:35 pm

    Sounds like you could be dehydrated? I’d drink some extra water and even coconut water!

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape March 10, 2012, 12:39 pm

    I’ve never heard of headaches after weight lifting, but it sort of makes sense that the tight muscles would cause them. Hopefully some other readers can be of more help!

    Enjoy your weekend 😀

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin March 10, 2012, 12:42 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this… but I hope you’re feeling better now!

  • Liz March 10, 2012, 12:43 pm

    I’m a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Sometimes people get headaches that are related to muscles in their neck that they may use in overhead (overhead press etc) movements or in pulling movements (rows etc). This is a compensation for weak or tight traps, or weak/tight pec minor. Have someone look at your form for you! Don’t stop lifting.

    • CaitlinHTP March 11, 2012, 12:18 pm

      Oh hmmm. I wonder if I can get one of my personal trainer friends to come along with me to the gym.

  • Amanda March 10, 2012, 1:03 pm

    Paraphrasing- You don’t like lifting because you’re not strong, but you’re not that strong because you don’t lift. There’s a viscous cycle and a half!

    I totally agree with your headache cause because I’ve experienced it as well. Usually mine are in combination with stress. I think you need to emphasize your upper back and shoulders a little less. You’re probably doing moves that engage the trapezius, rhomboids and rear deltoids over and over (my favorites FYI). Thus you are quite sore. You may need to mix it up. This is just my best guess, it’s not like I know what your routine looks like. Hope this helps.

    • CaitlinHTP March 11, 2012, 12:19 pm

      What muscles should I try to emphasize instead when I do chest and shoulders? Any suggestions?

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife March 10, 2012, 1:21 pm

    Hey girl—usually headaches like that (and migraines) can come on after intense workouts or heavy lifting because of the strain, but because you said that you don’t normally lift heavy weights, it is most likely caused from a possibility of 3 things:

    1. Poor form while lifting weights (especially in back exercises or chest press). When people lift weights, they often ‘stress out’ a little and lift their shoulders up towards their ears. This also happens during a stressful day, having poor posture, or sitting too much at a desk that is too low.
    2. Excessive headaches after lifting can be caused by a pinched nerve or a tight muscle. These could be muscles in the chest (pecs), shoulders (deltoids especially), or back (traps/lats)…..so get a massage or have your husband help ya out!
    3. Headaches can also come on because of dehydration, too little stretching, and/or not enough sleep or fuel. Check out those things…..and try to get in some more stretching after lifting. Most people forget this SO very important part of lifting!

    Hope that helps 🙂

    P.s. Love Greek yogurt on pancakes–tried it out b/c of you and fell in love!

  • Laura @ She Eats Well March 10, 2012, 1:28 pm

    That pumpkin pancake looks AMAZING. Hope you feel better….hydrate!

  • Amber K March 10, 2012, 1:31 pm

    That sounds awful! Hopefully you can find a way to ease the pain.

  • Kay-tee March 10, 2012, 1:55 pm

    My BF had a trip to the ER after a splitting H/A that wouldn’t resolve after lifting (he benches approx 260#) The verdict was that the amt of weight he was lifting at that time was too much for him to do with proper form and he strained a muscle deep in his neck. He needed rest and is fine now lifting more now than he did. How is your form? Do you stand when you’re lifting? Your center of gravity is off now so maybe your form is suffering? Good Luck!

    • CaitlinHTP March 11, 2012, 12:19 pm

      Oh my god, your poor boyfriend. I can’t imagine having to go to the ER with such a bad headache. Glad it wasn’t something super serious.

  • Anne@MyZenPulse March 10, 2012, 2:58 pm

    I get nasty migraines if my upper traps are firing when I lift/swing kettlebells. Breathe *really* deeply during both portions of the lift and actively relax the tops of your shoulders. I also recommend lots of neck mobility exercises before/after to release the connective tissue. Scott Sonnon’s Intuflow series is great!

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey March 10, 2012, 3:18 pm

    YES!! It’s totally from tension in between your shoulder blades – it always happens to me. Usually I cannot get the headache to go away unless I go get a massage or get some sort of acupressure done!

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie March 10, 2012, 3:52 pm

    Ugh that sucks.

    I get that way after doing certain exercises too and have to take a hot bath or have the hubby rub my shoulder and back muscles.

    I hope the headache goes away quickly because that is a major bummer. I HATE headaches and get them waaaay too frequently while pregnant.

  • Mary March 10, 2012, 4:33 pm

    I got a similar headache after lifting upper body weights this week. Ibuprofen works great (if you are not pregnant!). It also helps to foam roll the upper back/shoulder area – it’s like a self massage:).

  • Elizabeth @ reads recipes runs March 10, 2012, 4:36 pm

    I would bet money they are tension headaches. My husband gave me a gift card for a massage for valentines day and the masseuse was asking if I got them because of how tight my neck and shoulders are. She said that stretching a lot (even the front which she said can cause headaches) and if I feel a headache coming to put a heat pad on and stretch some more. I hope you find a solution!

  • Andrea March 10, 2012, 4:53 pm

    I have the same problem! I’m glad I’m not alone. I’ve started drinking coconut water or Gatorade when I am having a hard work out day. That seems to be making a bit of a difference. Let us know if you learn anything!

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats March 10, 2012, 5:29 pm

    I’ve never experienced a headache from weightlifting, but it could definitely be connected to tense muscles. Maybe even dehydration?

  • Kelly March 10, 2012, 6:12 pm

    How long apart are your breakfasts? I know you said that since you are getting bigger it harder to eat big meals so I was just curious how far apart they are spaced.

    • CaitlinHTP March 11, 2012, 12:20 pm

      3 hours!

      • Kelly March 11, 2012, 3:50 pm


  • Jessi March 10, 2012, 6:35 pm

    I’m a migraine suffer and these days I can spot the signs. When it starts to come on my neck gets really hard, like an iron rod. In order to stop it before it starts, I take a tylenol and do some back and shoulder stretches while I wait for my cherry pit pac to heat in the microwave. I keep it around my neck, while lounging sort of half upright on the couch until it cools down. And by then I’m normally ok. Hope it helps! Headaches are no fun =(

  • Kayla @ The Best Things March 10, 2012, 6:58 pm

    AHH I never win anything!!
    YEAH!! Thanks for hosting the giveaway Caitlin!

  • Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength March 10, 2012, 7:48 pm

    Have you ever noticed if you’re clenching your jaw??

  • Carly March 10, 2012, 9:10 pm

    Oh yes! For me it’s completely neck related. Tension in upper back/shoulders and lack of stretching will always bring on these types of headaches. I wonder, do your headaches stem from the bottom of your head, i.e. near your neck? I have a history of neck issues that all started with a massive 13-day headache. After months of physio I was able to get it under control but will get them now from time to time if I don’t stretch properly/ work harder than I normally do. It’s incredible how everything is connected. I’d suggest googling some neck stretches to do regularly to keep the blood flowing.

    Good luck! If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s how important it is to listen to your body.

  • Tracy March 11, 2012, 9:08 am

    YES! I always get headaches after a strenuous weight lifting session. It’s immediate though, not the next day. I thought it had something to do with oxygen supply…really that’s just speculation though.

    • Jackie January 27, 2014, 8:45 pm

      I use ice packs on my neck to break-up my headaches, and my migraines before going to taking medicine. Sometimes it works. The less chemicals I have in my system the better I feel.

  • Tanyajay March 11, 2012, 3:28 pm

    Totally tension headaches from tight upper back and neck muscles. I get them all the time. I have a double whammy of lifting and sitting at a computer all day. I have to stretch everyday and get massages often or I get them almost daily. 😁
    don’t let it discourage you though stretching really does make a huge difference!!

  • Megan March 11, 2012, 10:19 pm

    Yes you need to stretch after lifting. Tip your head to each side (ear to shoulder) and tip down at an angle (like you’re looking at your elbow) and look straight down. That will stretch the muscles that generally contribute to tension headaches. Don’t ignore your arms and shoulders too though! Good luck.

  • Shannon March 12, 2012, 12:32 am

    I’m a chiropractor and have been practicing for 11years. Headaches are very common with upper body weight lifting if you are not lifting properly or are already misaligned. I practice in Atlanta but I can recommend some excellent chiropractors in Charlotte. You may want to consider Pilates as well.

  • Nikky March 12, 2012, 7:02 am

    I seem to get headaches when I go for long runs in the middle of the day when it’s hot outside. Because of this I usually try to run either early in the morning or late at night. I also love to lift weights and I think it has a lot to do with training your body to become comfortable with the pressure and not to lift too heavy of a weight at first.

  • Kelli March 12, 2012, 1:43 pm

    I agree w/the suggestions everyone is making.
    First thing- have you ever used a tennis ball to massage your back? I think I’ve seen you say you use foam rollers on your legs sometimes. Using a tennis ball on your sore back muscles works similarly & helps with those tension headaches so much for me. Just get a tennis ball & lean back on it (against a wall, i always do this standing up) & vary the pressure by how hard you lean to hit all the knots. I have my husband massage my back too but sometimes he just can’t get the knots out the way the tennis ball can! It is seriously amazing. The other thing I’d suggest is any time you are doing upper body moves, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades towards each other. Maybe even practice doing it when you aren’t lifting. Your shoulders shouldn’t come up by your ears at all, just closer together like you are sticking your boobs way out. It really helps form.

  • SAME PROBLEM September 4, 2012, 6:35 am

    So glad I found this thread! Although don’t have a solution I just wanted to note that I am going thru the exact same thing! I am extremely weak and just began working out 2 weeks ago, 99% upper body. Twice a day I would get a pounding migraine, pressure behind the right eye, so severe I’ve consider calling an ambulance a few times. Now when I get them I just put a bag of ice on my neck and head and it goes away within 20 min. I still get them tho, so that sucks! Also, my form while lifting is horrible, and I’m sure that’s what’s causing the migraines.

  • Paul January 8, 2013, 11:39 am

    Yes, when i always get back into lifting I have excruciating headaches a day to a day and a half later after lifting back or doing shoulder shrugs (I never do those anymore because of headaches). It all seems related to the tightness/soreness in the trapezius muscles that go from the back of your head down into your back. I hate that feeling but it seems to go away after you get back into lifting for a while. Unless you work your back real hard and then it does come back again. It sux and is the only really type of soreness that I hate from lifting.

    • Scott Stewart June 26, 2013, 4:35 pm

      I get them, too; I think you’ll find this article helpful:

      • Marion R Bulmer February 9, 2014, 9:50 am

        I have chronic migraines, and have recently been working hard on identifying triggers. And have becoming convinced weights about half a day later causing migraines. I stretch after these exercises always. I drink a lot, I see a chiropractor. I do not over do weights. But once the migraine starts all the muscles get sore, which is not uncommon with my migraines.

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