Now that spring is here in Columbia, SC, we increase our time spent outdoors. Whether hiking or biking in the woods, fishing the lakes and rivers, or just gardening in your backyard, it feels good to get out. Unfortunately, as we start spending more time outdoors, we might also experience headaches that make it hard to enjoy our days. 

Here are some ways to head off your exertion headaches before they start. However, if these don’t work, talk to Columbia, SC neuromuscular dentist Dr. Adam Hahn about temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD), a common cause of chronic headaches. 

man biking on mountain trail


One of the most common reasons people get exertion headaches from spending time outdoors is dehydration. We might think we’re used to the heat and humidity in Columbia, SC, but dehydration can sneak up on us. By the time you start noticing symptoms of dehydration, such as thirst or a dry mouth, it might already be too late to stop your headaches due to exercise. 

Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water regularly. About an 8-ounce cup of water for every half hour you spend outside and active. While we understand that sweet tea seems appealing for a day in the garden, make sure at least half of your liquid intake is straight water: no caffeine or sugar. Plus, it’s best to avoid alcoholic drinks until you’re finished for the day. If you have a beer, a small glass of wine, or a cocktail, increase your water intake by at least one additional cup for each drink. 


None of us are as young or as flexible as we used to be. If you want to avoid muscle strain and tension that can cause exertion headaches, take the time to stretch before any activity. This is especially true at the beginning of the season when your body has grown unaccustomed to particular activities. 

This includes gardening, fishing, and other light outdoor activities. You may not think of them as strenuous, but they can put heavy demands on your muscles and joints. You are holding your body in unusual positions for prolonged periods, and the positions aren’t efficient for your muscles, so they can get strained. Activities like digging in the garden or casting can be demanding on muscles and joints, so stretch before you start enjoying at your favorite fishing spot around Columbia, SC.

Take Breaks

Another way to head off overexertion is by taking regular breaks. You’ll want to listen to your body and take a break whenever you feel you need it. However, early in the season, it’s necessary to make sure you’re taking enough breaks. It’s easy to push yourself too hard because you remember how fit you were in the fall. Take a break for at least a few minutes every half hour. Combine it with your water break. 

Over time, you can gradually reduce your breaks, but don’t push yourself too hard, too fast. 

Keep the Sun Off

Sun exposure can also cause headaches. 

For some people, sunlight can trigger migraines. If you’re susceptible to light-induced migraines, try using sunglasses to block the triggering light. These don’t work for everyone, so some people might need to avoid being active during the brightest parts of the day. 

Everyone, though, should try to avoid getting too much sun. Sun exposure can lead to overheating. This not only increases your need for water but can cause localized heating on your head that exceeds your body’s ability to cool off. This can lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Reduce your risk by shading yourself from the sun at its most intense times, from 10 AM to 3 PM. Wear a hat that offers broad shade but is also light and breathable. If you’re working in the yard and exerting yourself, you can also try to rotate your work as the shadows move over the course of the day. 

Be Aware of Allergies

Many people have allergies, and this is the time of year when allergies may flare up to cause headaches. Be aware of allergens in the air. There are, of course, seasonal allergies that flare as different plants release their pollen. However, if you’re working in the dirt or biking along the scenic roads outside of Columbia, SC, you might be exposed to additional allergens that don’t correspond to the seasons. 

Your allergies can then trigger sinus headaches. 

Check for TMJ in Columbia, SC

If you follow all these guidelines and still get headaches, there might be another cause to consider. TMJ is a common cause of headaches, and it often strikes when  you exercise. That’s because the imbalance in your jaw makes muscles work inefficiently. Muscles in the head and neck have to struggle harder to support and stabilize your head when your jaw itself isn’t stable. It can trigger headaches from virtually any activity. However, some of the common ones include:

  • Gardening
  • Running
  • Lifting and carrying heavy objects
  • Off-road biking
  • Fishing

If you suspect TMJ might be contributing to headaches this spring, Columbia, SC TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 or use our online form to contact Smile Columbia Dentistry today for an appointment.