Some people experience a headache after crying. This may be due to increased muscle tension, the release of stress hormones, or other physical processes.
Scientists do not know the exact link between crying and headaches.
Often when a person is crying, they may be experiencing pain or strong emotions, which put the body under stress. The body releases hormones, such as cortisol, when experiencing stress, which
These emotional and physical processes may be responsible for triggering several different types of headaches after crying.
One type of headache that a person may experience after crying is a tension headache.
When a person cries,
Tension headaches are the
Symptoms of a tension headache may include:
- pain on both sides of the head, neck, or face
- a pain that feels like a tight vice or band around the head
- tender feeling in the affected area which may worsen with touch
When a person cries, their tears drain into small holes in the corners of the eyelids, known as puncta. If a person produces a lot of tears, this drainage system becomes overwhelmed, and tears overflow down their cheeks. Some of these tears can also drain into their nasal passage.
Within the nasal passage are small, hollow spaces, known as the sinuses, that run along the cheekbones and forehead. When tears drain into the sinuses, they mix with mucus and can cause a runny nose. This buildup of mucus and tears can cause pressure in the sinuses, which may lead to a headache.
A person experiencing a sinus headache may feel pain and pressure across their forehead, cheeks, or around their eyes. These areas may also be tender and painful to touch. The pain and pressure of a sinus headache may worsen with sudden movements or when a person leans forward.
However, it is important to note that sinus headaches are not common and people experience them as a result of sinusitis. Furthermore, there is an overlap between the symptoms of sinus headaches and a migraine, so it may be difficult for a person to know which one they are experiencing.
If a person is crying due to feeling overwhelmed and stressed, this may trigger a migraine attack.
There are also some common links between the processes involved with crying and those that trigger a migraine attack.
Migraine attacks are a common type of headache, with around 15% of Americans experiencing them. Migraines
It is common for this pain to be on one side but it can occur anywhere across the face, head, and neck. Some people may mistake a migraine for a sinus headache, as the pain can also occur across the nose and behind the eyes and a runny nose may accompany it.
Along with pounding head pain, other symptoms of a migraine may include:
- sensitivity to light, sound, or smells
There are several ways a person may reduce the discomfort of a headache after crying. A person may consider speaking with a doctor about headache treatments because different types of headaches may respond better to different treatments. People should speak with a doctor before taking any medications to manage their headaches.
A person may wish to try some of the following techniques:
- gently massaging the head and neck muscles to reduce tension
- placing a warm or cool pack on the affected area to help relieve pressure and lessen muscle tension
- taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen
- taking triptans, a prescription medication that
aims to treatmigraines
- resting in a cool, dark, quiet room
In addition to the above treatments, if a person experiencing a crying-induced headache suspects it may be a sinus headache, they may wish to try the following:
- using a nasal irrigation device to help decongest the sinuses to relieve sinus pressure — the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)has a guide on how to safely use one
- leaning over a warm bowl of water and inhaling the vapor
- staying hydrated
Headaches are a common occurrence and can often cause mild discomfort. However, if a person is experiencing frequent headaches that impact their quality of life, they may wish to discuss potential causes and treatments with a doctor.
- severe pain that is worse than any headache they have previously experienced
- a severe headache with a sudden onset
- a high fever
- repeated vomiting
- problems with their speech, vision, or balance
If a person frequently feels overwhelmed and is crying far more often than usual, this may be a sign that they are experiencing a mental health condition. A doctor can help a person understand their symptoms and find the right support and treatment for them.
If a person is experiencing any of the headaches discussed above frequently, the best prevention is to follow a treatment plan provided by a doctor.
Other ways a person may prevent crying-induced headaches include:
Some people experience headaches after crying. Although scientists are not exactly sure why this occurs, facial muscle tension, sinus issues, and stress may play a role.
A person can try different techniques for preventing and treating headaches that occur after crying. However, if the headaches are frequent and impact their daily life, they may wish to see a doctor.
A doctor can discuss a person’s situation with them to help them decide the best course of treatment.