Why Do I Feel A Headache When Standing Up? How to prevent?

A headache is not always easy to describe but its most common symptoms involve throbbing, pulsing or a dull ache. Some people may also experience a headache when standing up.

The resulting headache may occur at once or it may be the result of an associated activity or exercise. In some cases, people may feel accompanying nausea with their headache.

Why Does A Headache Happen?

Headaches are described as a pain that rises from the head or the upper neck area. The pain generates from the various structures and tissues around the brain. Any inflammation in this part of the body can cause a headache to occur.

Even though headache may seem a generic term, there are in fact different classifications of headaches. This is because the headache can have different causes and so will need a different treatment technique for each type.

There are three broad categories of headaches based on the origin of the discomfort.

Primary headaches include tension, migraine and cluster headaches. These headaches can easily be very debilitating and affect the quality of life of the individual.

Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying structural problem in the head or neck. Possible triggers can be conditions like toothaches, infected sinus or others like substance abuse or excess of medications.

Other headaches include those that are caused by nerve pain. This can occur when any one of the 12 cranial nerves coming from the brain get inflamed. This impacts the muscles and sensory signals which run to and from the neck and head.

Why Do I Feel A Headache When Standing Up?

You may sometimes feel a headache come on when your stand up suddenly. This is caused by abnormal blood pressure regulation. Normally, when you stand up, gravitational pull causes blood to go down to the legs and trunk. This pooling action not only lowers blood pressure but also reduces amount of blood the heart sends to the brain.

Headache When Standing Up

The low blood flow to the brain can bring about a headache or dizziness. While this is the main cause of experiencing a headache when standing up, here is a rundown of factors which bring this into effect:

Postural Hypotension

This condition is also known as orthostatic hypotension. In this condition, the blood pressure drops suddenly when you stand up from a sitting or lying position. The dropping of blood pressure levels compromises reflexes and causes you to have a headache.

Orthostatic hypotension is rather mild and often lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. Such a drop in blood pressure due to a change in body position is more common in older people.

Sometimes, this episode of light headedness may also cause a temporary blackout or loss of consciousness.

Orthostatic headaches can not only occur but also worsen with upright posture.

Intracranial Hypotension

This is a condition in which there is negative pressure within the brain cavity. This refers to the production, absorption and flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord.

Any alterations in this pressure can cause the classic symptom of a headache when standing up. The headache can get severe when you are in an upright position and may be relieved when lying down.

These headaches may also be accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, double vision and difficulty concentrating.

Exertion Headaches

If you experience a headache when standing up right after vigorous exercise, it is known as an exertion headache. These headaches are also called activity-related headaches and share symptoms with migraines brought on by physical activity and cough headaches.

Exertion-induced headaches typically happen after training at a high intensity. Physical activity that can cause this type of a headache include running, swimming, tennis, rowing or weightlifting among others.

Exertion headaches usually strike younger people. The headache accompanies a lengthy workout session and pops up at the height of exercise. The pain typically fades as the exercise stops. However, there are exceptions when the headache might last up to two days.

A headache brought on by exercise which is undisruptive is called a primary exertion headache. This type is harmless and is caused by an increase in blood pressure. There is no other underlying condition.

But if there is also an underlying condition that triggers the headache, then it becomes known as a secondary exertion headache.

Exertion headaches when standing up could be triggered by dehydration, holding your breath, poor neck position or an increased heart rate.

This combination of elevated blood pressure, heart rate and dehydration can constrict arteries. This results in a huge surge of blood trying to enter the brain. It forcibly expands the arteriole walls and puts pressure on the meninges.


A migraine can bring about intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation, generally on one side of the head. This severe headache may also occur with accompanying symptoms like nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to sound and light.

You may also experience a migraine headache when standing up. The debilitating headache can cause considerable discomfort for a few hours to a few days rendering you incapacitated.

In most cases, migraines progress through four stages, even though not everyone experiences all four. The first stage is known as prodome where you may be able to identify some subtle changes like food cravings, neck stiffness or increased thirst and urination.

The second stage is called aura which may be experienced before or during the migraine. Auras are symptoms of the nervous system and are experienced as visual disturbances. Some people may experience flashes of bright light or zigzag vision. Some people may also experience sensory, motor or verbal disturbances.

The third stage, or the migraine attack can make you feel extreme pain on one side or both sides of the head. The pain may be pulsing or throbbing and sometimes may cause you to faint.

The final phase is called post-drome where you feel exhausted and washed out after a migraine attack. Some people may also feel slight confusion, moodiness and weakness in this phase.

Common migraine triggers include hormonal changes in women, certain foods, food additives and drinks. Migraines may also be set off by stress, sensory stimuli and disturbed sleep patterns among others.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches. The headache can range in intensity from mild or moderate to severe and cause discomfort in the head, neck and behind the eyes.

The tension headache itself is caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck regions. But a number of foods and stressors can spark off these contractions. Also, some people may get tired after working at a computer for long time and then experience a headache when standing up. The same can also happen after driving for a long time.

For the most part, tension headaches can be treated with OTC medication and pain relievers. However, these should only be used sparingly as overuse can lead to rebound headaches.


Dehydration a very common, yet much unacknowledged trigger for headaches. Being dehydrated can cause a headache to occur at the front, back, side or all over the head. This type of headache is best identified by movement which seems to aggravate the pain and make it worse.

At the same time, dehydration also causes the blood volume to drop.  This results in lowering the blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain. As a result, the blood vessels located in the brain dilate. This leads to inflammation and swelling, which worsens the headache.

You may feel a dehydration headache when standing up, bending down or when climbing a flight of stairs. Even actions like walking may become excruciating, depending on the headache and dehydration severity.

However, dehydration headaches do not occur in isolation. Instead, there are often coinciding symptoms like dry mouth, increased blood pressure, and fatigue among others.

To correct this problem, you can try to reduce the amount of physical activity you engage in. You can also drink more water until your headache symptoms subside. And you can try to restore electrolyte balance by mixing electrolyte powder with your water.

Poor Posture

If you experience a headache when standing up after a long day of work in front of the computer, the culprit could be bad posture. In fact, the way you sit at your desk, the way you hold the phone and the way you type on your computer can all be held accountable.

Many people suffer from headaches when their muscles get tense and become tight. This tightness is felt all over the head and neck as well as the upper back. This makes the muscles work in an uncomfortable position all day long and then the headache strikes.

As a matter of fact, poor posture often brings on neck related tension headaches. These headaches are usually caused by inflammation in the upper and middle parts of the neck and may also trigger a migraine.

You can improve your posture by making lifestyle changes such as doing yoga, Pilates or Tai chi. These types of movement sequences can help keep your joints supple and your body active. Plus, they will improve your muscle tone. With improved muscle tone, your natural stance will also change and have a positive effect on your posture.

Preventing Future Headache When Standing Up

Since different types of headaches are often brought on by specific triggers, it is important to identify the underlying causes first.

Keep a Headache Journal

You can keep a headache diary to identify your triggers. Record your daily meals, beverages and activities in your diary and note down any stress triggers.

Every time you have a headache, try to locate the cause by referencing to your diary. For example, if you notice that your headache occurred on a day when you had a particular food that may be your trigger. Or, if you woke up with a headache after a bad night’s sleep, then you should try to improve your sleep routine.

Improve Circulation

Most headaches happen when there is a problem with the dilation and contraction of blood vessels at inappropriate times.

To promote improved circulation, you can perform some simple neck and shoulder exercises. You can also take a warm shower to help relieve tension. A warm shower will open up the blood vessels and stimulate circulation in the head and neck.

Get Your Eyes Checked

Headaches may also occur frequently if your eyes are strained for prolonged periods. For example, staring at the computer screen, or working in overly bright or dimly lit areas can exert your eyes.

Plus, eye conditions like astigmatism, hyperopia and presbyopia can also trigger recurrent headaches. And serious conditions like glaucoma and cataracts affecting vision can also cause repeated headaches.

If you experience a sudden headache when standing up or doing other activities, it is a good idea to see an eye care provider. If you already wear glasses, you may need a new prescription, but if something else is going on, a professional can identify the problem.

Try Sinus Irrigation

If your headaches are the result of sinus congestion, then consider sinus or nasal irrigation. You can try using a saline spray and get rid of nasal congestion. This method works by spraying a saline solution in the nasal airways to restore moisture. The same also helps control inflammation of the mucous membranes.

Another way to go is to use a neti pot for sinus irrigation. This method also uses saline water to cleanse the nasal airways and keep them free of irritants.

Get Proper Rest

Daytime symptoms of sleep deprivation include waking up with a headache or feeling tired all day long. You may also feel it as a sudden headache when standing up from your bed.

However, it is not only sleeping too little that can cause headaches but sleeping too much as well. In fact, daytime sleeping appears to bring on headaches as it reduces sound sleep at night.

The best approach is to keep a balance and reserve daytime hours for activities and night time hours for sleep.