• Subarachnoid Hemorrhage and the Lifters Headache - By Dr. Kristopher Hunt, M.D.

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      At the end of this article, you should be able to:
      • Understand what it means to have a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
      • Understand what it means to have a Lifter’s Headache
      • Understand the differences and similarities between the two, and why you should care if you lift heavy things

      This article begins a series of articles on common injury patterns in lifters. The reason this topic was selected as the first article was because it is a topic that is extremely important to me as an Emergency Physician. It is one of the few things related to moving heavy objects that actually will kill you or make you a vegetable. Surprisingly, in spite of the massive amounts of weight that some lifters move, it is difficult to get killed or severely injured in most lifting sports. Overall injury rates are pretty low for both powerlifting and weightlifting, making them some of the safest sports possible (Table [1]).

      This topic, however, is one thing you should pay attention to.

      Ever had a headache? Ever had a REALLY BAD headache? Ever had one while lifting? If you’ve been lifting even for a moderate amount of time, I would suspect the answers to all three of these questions would be “yes” for most people.

      The human brain is a fascinating thing. It is the most important organ we have. It has a complicated network of blood vessels that supply it and has a great ability to repair itself and deal with physiologic insults to it. What’s more, it is the thing that allows us to feel, yet it has no “feeling” in and of itself per se. Why then, would we get a headache?

      This is an extremely complicated question that is beyond the scope of this article. There are many different types of headaches and they all have different causes. However, one thing that lifters should be attuned to is the lifter’s headache, also known as lifter’s cephalgia and benign exertional headache.

      A lifter’s headache is often found in newer trainees, but can be intermittent in even the most experienced of lifters. Typically, a lifter’s headache is thought to originate from a mild pull in some of the smaller muscles at the base of the skull, causing pain often to originate there and move throughout the head. Often, individuals describe sudden onset of pain with exertion. Not everybody reads the symptom book, and symptoms do vary, but these are the most typical descriptions.

      What about the subarachnoid hemorrhage? What’s that all about? Well, a subarachnoid hemorrhage basically means a bleed into the brain in a certain space called the “subarachnoid space”. Essentially, this is where blood layers in the brain when an aneurysm inside the brain bursts. ...more
      Comments 2 Comments
      1. johnnysanz3's Avatar
        johnnysanz3 -
        When I was just a casual lifter 4 years ago or so, I developed a "lifters headache". Just went to my primary and he said probably exertional headache. I only got it during lifting and sometimes sex. Never gave me an MRI thought to rule out an aneurysm or anything though..kind of scary haha. I think I went and did a stress test though, which revealed nothing. Ended up giving me Topamax, took that for a few months and the headaches went away during that time, but I think they would of went away on their own anyway so I just stopped taking the topamax and I haven't had a single headache while lifting since.

        Good to know I could of possibly had something way more serious that wasn't checked for haha.
      1. Hamad AlAjmi's Avatar
        Hamad AlAjmi -
        Great article thanks for sharing the precious information with us