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The Link between Stress and Headaches

Stress is something we have to deal with on a daily basis. We all deal with stress differently, but from time to time the pressure can be a little bit overwhelming. For some people, the stress and pressure felt manifests itself in the form of a headache. If you’ve ever experienced a dull pain at the base of your skull accompanied by neck and shoulder pain, then you may be one of the more than one-third of adults who experience stress headaches.

These headaches can be triggered by a number of factors – all of which are related to stress and pressure. In some cases, they are triggered by chemicals released by the body when faced with stressful situations. These chemicals can cause blood vessels in the brain to dilate, which causes the headaches. In other cases, the stiffness of the neck and shoulder muscles can also contribute to the dull pressure around the head and at the base of the skull.

What are Stress Headaches?

Stress headaches, also known as tension headaches, are a form of primary headaches which can be triggered by any form of stress. This type of headache should not be confused with other common and chronic headache conditions that could be triggered by stress like migraine headaches. Unlike most headaches, tension headaches are normally not debilitating in nature; however, this type of headache can be quite persistent and annoying and it can also interfere with one’s concentration.

People go through all sorts of stressful situations everyday that may lead to stress or tension headaches. Whether one needs to meet deadlines, make sure a household is running smoothly, or sit in front of a computer all day, little things like these can also contribute to the stress a person experiences. Stress headaches are usually episodic and they usually occur when one is exposed to overwhelming stress and tension. A lot of patients with this type of headache report experiencing tension headaches, at the very least, once or twice a month. There are cases, however, when a person is constantly exposed to stress and pressure at home, work, and in their environment. People who are under stress on a regular basis may develop chronic stress headaches that need a more long-term approach to treat.

Different Ways to Treat Stress Headaches

A typical episodic stress headache can be relieved by over-the-counter pain killers. A hot or cold compress can also help ease the pain and discomfort caused by this condition. These methods can also help those with chronic tension headaches temporarily, but to keep chronic stress headache episodes to a minimum or to eliminate this type of headache completely, one should try to make some major changes to their lifestyle.

Stress management is one of the main factors in preventing and treating chronic tension headache conditions. This may involve practicing yoga, meditating, taking more vacations, or in extreme cases, a career and environment change. Regular exercise and performing relaxing activities can also help in treating and avoiding tension headaches. Anything that can relieve stress or help you avoid it is ideal for maintaining a headache-free life.