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What Causes Headache After Crying & How Is It Treated?

Crying is the natural response of the body to sadness, grief, stress, and also happiness. Some people experience headaches after crying.

Tears are produced in the body when the limbic system which is responsible for emotional arousal sends signals to the lacrimal glands.(2) These glands are located above the eyelids and are responsible for the production of tears.(3)

What Causes Headache After Crying?

Crying leads to a runny nose and may lead to tension in the muscle around the face and head. Crying puts a person under stress due to the build-up of strong emotions. As the body experiences stress it releases hormones such as cortisol that can lead to a range of physical and emotional reactions.(3) These physical and emotional processes may trigger different types of headaches after crying.

Tension Headache After Crying

This is one type of headache experienced by a person after crying.

As crying tenses the facial muscle, there may also be tension around the jaw, down the neck, and the back of the head. Crying for a prolonged period causes continuous contraction of muscles, which may lead to tension headaches.

The symptoms of a tension headache include:(4)

  • Pain on both sides of the head, neck, and around the face
  • Pain as there is a tight vice around the head
  • Tenderness around the area affected.

Sinus Headache After Crying

On crying the tears drain into the holes in the corner of the eyelids known as puncta. On production of a lot of tears, the drainage system becomes overwhelmed and tears overflow down the cheeks. Some of these tears may also drain into the nasal passage.

There are small hollow spaces within the nasal passage which are known as sinuses. These run along the cheekbones and forehead. These tears may drain into the sinus and get mixed with mucus causing a runny nose. The build-up of mucus in the sinus may lead to headaches.

A person with a sinus headache may feel pressure and pain across the forehead, cheeks, and around the eyes. There may also be tenderness around these areas. The pain in the sinus may worsen with sudden movement and leaning forward.

Sinus headaches are not common and most occur due to sinusitis. There may be an overlap of symptoms of sinus headache and migraine making it difficult to distinguish between both.

Migraine Headache Due to Crying

Crying due to feeling overwhelmed and stressed may lead to a migraine headache.

Stress is a common trigger for migraine headaches. It is observed that 80% of people with migraine headaches reported stress as a trigger and fatigue as another.(5)

It was observed in research that crying may activate the autonomic nervous system. Research also shows that migraine attacks may occur due to dysregulation of the sympathetic nervous system which is part of the autonomic nervous system.(6, 7)

Migraine headaches are very common and around 15% of Americans are known to experience them.(8)

In migraine, there is throbbing and pounding pain across the forehead, which can be moderate to severe. It is found to worsen with activity. Other symptoms of migraine headaches include:

How is Headache After Crying Treated?

There are several ways in which the discomfort that occurs after crying can be reduced. A doctor can be consulted to help diagnose its type and direct treatment.

The following techniques can also be helpful to a person in calming the headache after crying:

  • Gently massage the muscles of the head and neck
  • Place a warm and cool pack on the affected area
  • Take over-the-counter medication
  • Rest in a place that is cool and dark
  • Certain prescription mediations

A person experiencing sinus headaches can try the following:

  • Use an irrigation device that can be helpful in decongesting the sinus and relieving the headache
  • Leaning over a warm bowl and inhaling vapor
  • Staying hydrated

How to Prevent Crying-Induced Headache?

If the headache is experienced frequently, a doctor should be consulted for the treatment plan.

The doctors may prescribe medications for persistent migraine, sinus, and tension headaches.

Other ways to prevent crying-induced headaches are:

  • Knowing stress management
  • Maintaining a regular sleep
  • Practicing good posture

People experience headaches after crying, which could be due to muscle tension and sinus issues. There are different techniques to prevent it. However, if the headache occurs frequently and is impacting the quality of life a doctor should be consulted.

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 9, 2023

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