Does that nasty headache from heavy weight lifting mean you might have an aneurysm?

Sometimes heavy weight lifting (squats, deadlift, etc.) can cause a headache, and make you think this is an aneurysm.

I’m a former certified personal trainer and know for certain that a headache, while doing heavy lifts, can be brought on by dehydration, even though you may not feel thirsty.

To help rule out dehydration as the cause of a bad headache that occurs during or after deadlifting, squatting or some other heavy weightlifting routine, drink plenty of water prior to working out; a tall glass worth.

  • Fifteen minutes into your routine (including any warming up), guzzle some more water.
  • Every 15 minutes drink water; not a tiny sip, but guzzle it at the fountain.

Also make sure that you’ve been adequately nourished throughout the day with nutritious food.

If you nevertheless develop a headache during your weightlifting, or shortly after, this may be due to an increase in the venous pressure of the brain, according to Teresa Caulin-Glaser, MD,

Dr. Glaser also mentions what is known as a primary thunderclap headache, which may be caused by heavy weightlifting (and we all know how heavy and wicked a good set of deadlifts or barbell squatting can be).

The primary thunderclap headache is related to the vasoconstriction of the blood vessels that feed the brain.

If you’ve been worrying about an aneurysm being triggered by your weightlifting, or if you’re troubled by headaches following your workouts, even though you’ve been drinking plenty of water, speak to your physician just to play safe.

You might also want to consider hiring a personal trainer for a few heavy deadlifting and squatting sessions to make sure that you’re positioning your body correctly, and breathing correctly during these heavy lifts.

Dr. Caulin-Glaser says to cease working out if you experience a sudden-onset bad headache.

An aneurysm (leaking variety) may present with only one symptom: sudden, severe headache.

A ruptured aneurysm typically presents with a most horrible headache plus other symptoms like blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and confusion.

Dr. Caulin-Glaser is an experienced physician, teacher and researcher in the specialty of cardiovascular disease, and formerly the system vice president for Heart & Vascular Services at OhioHealth.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.