Getting a headache after a good, hard cry is like stepping on a Lego piece after stubbing your toe (with the same foot).
So why is your body punishing you when your heart is already in pain? After all, crying is meant to be therapeutic! At worst, you’re meant to have puffy, red eyes and a runny nose – not feeling as if someone were taking a hammer to the inside of your skull.
But why oh why does your head hurt so damn much from crying—do you really need the extra punishment?
Why do you get a headache after crying?
At present, the exact reason is still unknown. But basically, a headache is the side-effect of the stress that’s put on the body when you cry, especially during gutwrenching sobs that make you physically tense up or shake; as lactic acid and other metabolic by-products of muscle fatigue will build up. On a neurological level, your sadness will trigger the body’s response to stress, which is to release hormones such as cortisol. These hormones manifest in physical reactions like crying, headaches and runny noses.
How do you stop a headache from getting worse?
First, figure out what kind of headache you’re experiencing; crying is not meant to have any side-effects (other than the emotional drainage that comes right after) and if you find yourself experiencing persistent, chronic headaches after crying, it would be best to see a doctor. This is especially so if the pain disrupts your day to day activity and requires you to take medication.
• Tension headache: The most common type of headache, a tension headache is often a mild to moderate, dull ache that can feel as if there’s a tight band wrapped around your head. It can also lead to pressure and tightness in your neck and shoulders.
• Sinus headache: Because your eyes, nose, ears and throat are all connected internally, it’s not unusual that you might experience a blockage in these areas. When you cry, your tears will enter your nasal passage and can cause blockages in your sinuses. As pressure builds, it can cause you to feel pressure around your eyes, cheeks and forehead.
• Migraines: Often confused with tension headaches, migraines are felt as intense poundings, often occurring on one side of the head. Not only is the pain more intense, but migraines also differ from tension headaches because they often come along with side-effects like nausea, sensitivity to light and sound as well as vomiting.
For the most part, the following can help alleviate crying induced headaches:
• Lying (with your eyes closed) in a quiet, dark room.
• Using a cool pack on your eyes and forehead / a heat pack on your neck to relax muscles.
• Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen (as recommended by the pharmacist/on the packaging)
• Massage the neck, shoulders and temple.
Most importantly, remember to keep hydrated and to rest. Let your body regulate itself to its normal state. However, if your headache is particularly bad or different from normal, do consult a professional. Take good care of yourself and, especially after a much-needed cry, give yourself a little extra TLC.
*Cover image credits: Photo by Anh Nguyen on Unsplash