The Link Between Dehydration and Headaches

The Link Between Dehydration and Headaches

You’re always hearing the message, “Be sure to stay hydrated.” Sure, drinking enough water is important. But can being dehydrated really be enough to cause you pain?

Headaches are a common symptom of dehydration, along with dizziness and dry mouth. At Performance Pain & Sports Medicine, our expert team of providers led by Dr. Matthias Wiederholz and Dr. Suzanne Manzi can help you better understand all the ways hydration is necessary for peak performance, health, and wellness.

We provide interventional pain management treatment and sports medicine support from locations in Houston and League City, Texas, and Lawrenceville, New Jersey. With our expertise, you can optimize your hydration, avoiding dehydration headaches.

Understanding dehydration

Your body needs fluids to function optimally. You take in some fluids with foods and beverages, but the best way to stay hydrated is to drink enough water. Some beverages, like coffee, actually have an overall dehydrating effect on your body.

When you’re more active, you need to compensate with more hydration. Sweating uses up a lot of your body’s fluid reserves, and those need to be replenished promptly if you don’t want to deal with dehydration symptoms.

In a body that’s dehydrated, tissues start to shrink and contract. That includes the tissues of your brain! And that’s why dehydration can result in headaches.

Dehydration doesn’t just cause painful headaches. You could also experience fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. Often, your mouth feels dry and you don’t need to urinate as frequently. When you do, your urine is dark in color. Confusion is a sign of severe dehydration, while even mild dehydration can result in a headache.

Severe dehydration may require medical attention, especially in babies, young children, and seniors, and can pose a fainting risk. And, if you have an underlying medical condition like diabetes, dehydration could pose heightened risks for you.

Treating and preventing dehydration headaches

Dehydration headaches can cause mild to severe pain. Your pain may seem concentrated in one part of your head, like the front, back, or side. Or, your head might hurt all over. Pain related to dehydration is typically a dull ache, but can also feel sharp or throbbing. You might notice that your pain worsens when you move around, bend over, or move your head.

If you’ve got a dehydration headache, rest, use over-the-counter medication for short-term pain relief, and focus on rehydrating. Your pain will typically go away after rest and rehydration. Take small sips of water to rehydrate, avoiding drinking too much water too quickly, as this can upset your stomach.

Electrolytes make a difference when it comes to addressing dehydration. Your body uses these minerals for core functions. You lose electrolytes when you sweat or urinate. Electrolyte drinks can be helpful to replace fluids, but watch out for the amount of sugar your beverage contains, as high levels of sugar are also bad for your health.

For severe dehydration, professional care, including IV fluids, and hospitalization may be needed.

You can prevent dehydration and related headache pain by drinking plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to get a drink, as you may already be mildly dehydrated by that point. Make sure to include hydration in your exercise and athletic activity plans, counteracting the amount of fluid you lose through sweating.


At Performance Pain & Sports Medicine, we provide a full range of sports medicine care and support. We can help with chronic dehydration problems, as well. Schedule an appointment by contacting us online, or call our location most convenient to you today.

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