A good cry can feel totally therapeutic. But sometimes, it can be so awful (and not just because of its root cause). Never mind the emotional drainage, but on top of that, you might also get a pounding headache. What did you do to deserve the extra pain?
There are a couple of reasons, and those depend on the type of headache you’re experiencing. Read through the article below and discover what’s making your head pound post-tears, and what you can do about it.
When you’re feeling sad, your body releases stress hormones, like cortisol. Those stress hormones set off neurotransmitters (the brain’s chemical messengers) that trigger physical reactions—like tension in your forehead, or tears streaming down your face. In other words, when you feel awful emotionally, your body will begin to feel awful, too.
Most people will experience a tension headache from crying, which tends to make your head hurt, but don’t lead to nausea or light sensitivity (like migraines). They’re called tension headaches for a reason: The actual tension in your body is what causes the discomfort. When you cry for a prolonged period of time, you tighten up your forehead, neck and back of the head. A long cry prolongs the constriction of these muscles and can make your head throb.
Long cries also affect your sinuses because tear ducts drain into your sinus passages (which is why you get a runny nose when you cry, too). So all of that congestion built up in the body can put pressure on your forehead and cause a headache.
Another root cause for post-cry headaches is dehydration—when you lose too much water from your body from crying.
In some cases, crying can activate a migraine—especially in those who are predisposed to them. That’s because stress can be an awful trigger for people with migraines.
What can you do to relieve the pain?
Try using an ice pack or hot pack. Place it on the back of the head, on your neck, or right on your forehead. A hot or cold shower can also work.
If that doesn’t work, try massaging your head and your neck. There’s a trigger point in the web-like space right between your index finger and your thumb. Squeeze that area, and you might be able to lessen the headache pain.
Rehydrating might help too! As one of the root causes of a headache is dehydration, drinking liquids is another way to relieve headaches after crying.
Although it’s easier said than done when upset, if you can fall asleep, your body will thank you. Sleep off a headache, which will rest your mind (and your eyes) and soothe your nerves and head.
And if nothing else is working, popping a pain reliever like acetaminophen or aspirin can work, too. People with migraines may also want to talk to their healthcare professional about specific medications that might work better for their pain.