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Migraine after swimming

Can anyone help cause this is driving me mad....

For the past 2 years I have been having classic migraine after swimming. It doesn't happen every time, but frequently enough for me to consider quitting triathlon, and the effects last several days meaning no running or cycling. It doesn't matter if it's pool, open water or sea, with or without wetsuit, morning or evening, with a hat or without, dehydrated or well hydrated. I have tried at least three different types of goggles. I've had swimming lessons to iron out problems with my stroke. I've tried cooling down both in the pool and with a short walk or bike ride after. I usually have a banana 1h to 30 mins before my session, drink water during, and refuel when I'm back on dry land.

I don't have problems after running or cycling, the only trigger seems to be swimming. I had the start of a migraine at the end of a sprint race last year, running the last 2k without being able to see and with pins and needles in my hands. I got hosed down a couple of times and it went away, so I think that overheating could be a problem, only I don't usually feel too hot...

Does this happen to anyone else? Does anyone know how to get a GP to take them seriously? Is there anyway to train for the swim without actually swimming?

I'm getting to the point where even looking at a body of water makes me feel a bit ill...


  • aoneill69aoneill69 Posts: 206
    sounds like you have covered all the areas previously, however one area i suffered which lead to headaches was sinus problems after swimming....might not be your problem however couple of things i do now...
    Ensure i constantly breathe out under water from nose and 'force' water out..
    and use beconase straight after training...probably not helpful in a race but you may notice a difference after a pool session..
    if you haven't got any sinus/headache related pains then this is all drivel ....hope you find a solution!
  • 101SUSY101SUSY Posts: 53
    I was thinking sinuses too. Are you doing tumble turns ? I had to stop doing them due to the headache it gave me. Try a nose clip as well if you are only brething out of your mouth
  • jmurt71jmurt71 Posts: 46
    Might be worth trying earplugs as well. I've never had anything as serious as your migraines, but I did find that getting cold water in your ears tended to give me headaches. Also maybe taking a bit of time to acclimatise to the cold water might help.

    On a lighter note, a few people in my family get bad migraines and my grandfather (who lived to 96) used to say to them - 'don't worry, after seventy the migraines just seem to go away!'
  • aoneill69aoneill69 Posts: 206
    good shout on the earplugs i also use them, found a product called Bio Ear from Boots...Gel type ear plug much better than those hard plastic ones...
  • TeapotTeapot Posts: 7
    Thanks guys, I'll be getting a nose clip and ears plugs this week, and then I'll work on building up the courage to get in the water again (I'm starting a new job this week so I didn't want to risk it over the weekend). I will be experimenting with each separately, so it'll be a good couple of weeks before the results are in.

    I've never been able to get the hang of tumble turns, and it looks like I won't be bothering to learn now.

    If anyone else has any suggestions please let me know, and I'll give it a go
  • 101SUSY101SUSY Posts: 53
    How did you get on ? Hopefully no more problems....
  • Teapot,

    Please tell me, did you have any success with the earplugs and noseplugs? i just started tri training and have encountered the same exact problem. I have suffered from migraines my whole life, but have recently managed them pretty well, except for when I swim. Cycling and running are also not a problem for me. I used to think going to the chiropractor was helping, but the migraines continue to be a problem after swimming only.
  • Hi. I am responding to a 4 year old post but perhaps you are still out there.  I have had to give up swimming (after many attempts to vary my technique) for the reasons you mentioned.  I also can not lift upper body weights....even yoga moves which involve a lot of turning of the head will cause migraines.  I have concluded that it is due to pressures built up from swelling of the muscles and blood vessels around the neck. I very much miss these kinds of vigorous exercise and hope to someday find a solution.  Have you had any luck in your efforts.


  • I suffered migranes after a Karting accident at the British 24hr where I hit my head (in a full face helmet) I had MRIs, Xrays etc but in the end I was given Beta-blockers for a couple of months. Ever since finishing that course of medication (over a year now) I have been migrane free (although that is the ultimate jinx) 

  • I suffer from chronic migraines. Lived with them pretty much my entire life. Swimmer since 6 years old. Swimming never seemed to trigger my migraines, until about 3 years ago, right about when I turned 40.

    I started noticing the pattern, when two-three hours after swimming, I start feeling the onset symptoms.

    I have a very well established stroke and flip turnes, that have not changed much though the last 25 years. I also did not make any changes into my swimming regiment. I tried all the tips and tricks the other ppl here suggested without much difference in the frequency of the swimming triggered migraines.

    I also run regularly. Running does not trigger my migraines, even with longer exercise length and intensity.
  • I have suffered with migraines since my early teenage years, I currently take Amitriptlyn 50mg (spelling) changed my life for the good, only get migraines every now and again mainly when my body is stressed or very tired.
  • park187park187 Posts: 1
    edited February 2021

    When I was a teenager, I got a migraine headache after every high school swim practice, but not after races. I would not notice it during the workouts, but as soon as I stood up in the shallow end, or got out of the pool, I would be blinded by the pain. I would have to lie down for 30 to 60 minutes for it to subside. Eventually I quit swimming because all of my workouts took twice as long as anyone else, if one includes the recovery.

    I came to believe that it had to do with blood pressure, although my BP was not high at the time. Whenever my head was above my heart the throbbing would be unbearable. If I stayed in the water for those 30-60 minutes while I recovered there were no symptoms.

    This was 55 years ago. I have never had a migraine on its own. I have competed in rowing up to but not quite including international competition. I currently am an avid nordic skier, with no headache symptoms.

    All I have ever been able to deduce is that it is somehow related to highly aerobic workouts while being supported in the water. Still wondering after all these years ...

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