If you’ve ever had a headache when bending over, the sudden pain may have surprised you, especially if you don’t get frequent headaches.
The discomfort of the headache might fade quickly, but it can leave you wondering whether the pain might indicate a more serious condition. In most cases, it’s nothing to worry about.
Here’s a look at some common causes.
Sinus inflammation (sinusitis) can cause headaches that get worse when you bend over. They might involve throbbing pain in your head and face. They usually improve when the inflammation clears up.
Other symptoms include:
- decreased energy or fatigue
- pressure in your cheeks, forehead, or behind your eyes
- aching teeth
To treat a sinus headache, try:
- taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relivers, such as ibuprofen (Advil)
- taking an OTC decongestant, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
- drinking plenty of water and other fluids
- applying a hot compress to your face or head
- breathing in moist air by using a humidifier or sitting in a hot bath
Use decongestants with care
Decongestants also should only be used for a few days, since they may raise your blood pressure or have other side effects.
If you don’t notice any improvement after a few days, see your healthcare provider. You may need antibiotics to clear up the underlying cause of the inflammation.
This kind of headache can happen when you cough, but it can also occur when you bend over, sneeze, laugh, cry, blow your nose, or strain in other ways.
You’ll usually experience pain during or shortly after the strain. These headaches often go away in a few minutes, but they could linger for an hour or two.
Symptoms of a cough headache include:
- splitting or sharp pain
- pain that occurs in the back of the head and on both sides, with the pain in the back often being more severe
Cough headaches typically don’t require treatment. But drinking water and resting can help, especially if you’ve been ill or have recently been crying.
If you get cough headaches frequently or if they affect your day-to-day life, consider asking your healthcare provider about preventive medication. Certain drugs may help to reduce inflammation and relax your blood vessels.
You should also see your healthcare provider if you get longer-lasting cough headaches that cause vision problems or make you feel dizzy, faint, or unsteady. These headaches, called secondary cough headaches, may result from underlying issues in your brain.
It’s common to experience headaches as a symptom of dehydration. Dehydration can also trigger a migraine or make an existing one worse.
With a dehydration headache, pain often increases when you bend over, walk, or move your head.
Other symptoms of dehydration include:
- extreme thirst
- dizziness, especially when standing up
- dark urine
- infrequent urination
- dry mouth
If you’re mildly dehydrated, drinking some water will usually help to clear up your symptoms within a few hours. Aim for one to four cups.
If you have symptoms of severe dehydration, such as a fever and diarrhea, seek immediate medical care.
A migraine often involves specific triggers, including certain foods, stress, or lack of sleep. For some, bending over is a trigger. But if bending over seems to be a new trigger for you, it’s best to check in with your healthcare provider.
Compared to a headache, a migraine may be more likely to cause pain on one side of your head, though it’s possible to feel pain on both sides. Migraine-related pain also tends to be throbbing or pulsing.
Other migraine symptoms include:
- blurry vision or light spots (aura)
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- increased sensitivity to light, noise, or smells
Without treatment, a migraine can last up to three days.
Treating migraine can be complicated, since not all treatments work well for everyone. It may take some trial and error before you find the best treatment for your migraine attacks.
A few options include:
- medications, including prescription drugs, such as triptans or beta blockers, or OTC options
- stress relief and relaxation techniques
Headaches are very common. According to the World Health Organization,
If your headaches are frequent, severe, and continue to get worse, they could have an underlying cause that requires prompt medical attention.
Headaches can sometimes be a sign of one of these serious health conditions:
- blood clots in the brain
- head trauma
- exposure to toxins, such as chemicals, medicines, and others
- brain hemorrhage
While these conditions are typically rare, it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to new or unusual headaches.
Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you need to take pain medication for more than two days a week for your headaches.
Here are some other signs you should see a doctor:
- new, different, or long-lasting head pain
- vision problems
- persistent headache with vomiting or diarrhea
- persistent headache with fever
- neurological symptoms, such as impaired cognitive abilities, weakness in your muscles, seizures, or unexplained changes in mental state
- other new or bothersome symptoms without any clear cause