Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Ask Buck

Mystery Headaches

Is altitude sickness causing my headaches or something else?

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.

Question:

Recently, while hiking up to 12,000 feet in the Snowy Range, Wyoming, I developed a pounding headache. I thought it was due to a slight case of altitude sickness. However, while hiking a 10-mile trail in Illinois, I again developed a severe headache. Why?

Submitted by – David, Stillwater, MN

Answer:

I can’t say for sure. But I can tell you that pounding headaches have three classic causes: dehydration, muscle tension (possibly from the weight of a pack), and a vascular abnormality sometimes labeled as migraines. If it only happens backpacking, I’m guessing either the first or second cause. If it happens when you’re not backpacking, I suggest you tell your favorite doc.

—Buck