Sometimes headaches are “cause and effect” as in the case of bowel straining and headaches. This type of headache is called an exertional headache, which is one that is associated with physical activity. Benign exertional headaches are also known as cough headaches and though they are brief, they can also be severe and pervasive in quickly distributing pain throughout your head. You may also have heard of an exertional migraine, which is the type of migraine headache that occurs during exercise.
In addition to bowel straining and headaches, exertional headaches can be caused by a wide spectrum of activities from sneezing to weight lifting to having sex. Although the activities that cause them vary, the most common cause of the exertional headache is the performance of the Valsalva maneuver. While this may sound pretty exotic, it’s just when you’re trying to exhale while keeping your mouth and nose closed, for example, the activity that makes bowel straining and headaches have something in common.
At the 126th Annual Meeting of the American Neurological Association, Dr. Bahram Mokri who is a Professor of Neurology at Mayo Medical School, Rochester, Minnesota, reported that exertional headaches are more frequently associated with intracranial lesions than not (63% vs. 37%) and that “recent evidence suggests that spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leaks may sometimes present as exertional headaches.” However, when no structural cause is detected, they are referred to as benign exertional headaches.
Although this sounds serious, he went on to say, ““Rarely are there any dangers associated with spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leaks,” Most exertional headaches are benign and usually respond to traditional therapies like over the counter pain relievers, but they can be symptoms of other medical problems. If bowel straining and headaches are a combo that often happens to you, the best advice is to consult your physician. Tests that are done for exertional headaches may include an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or an MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography) scan.
So go easy on yourself – let nature take care of things and you won’t wind up with headaches from bowel straining.