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Stress Headaches: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Stress headaches fall under the category of primary headaches. This means that the headaches are not caused by any underlying illness or condition. The primary trigger for this type of headache is stress, which causes the muscles in the shoulders and neck to contract which leads to pain in the base of the skull where the neck meets the head. The pain then extends to the back of the head and is often described by patients as a dull, vice-like pressure felt around the head. This is a very common headache type which affects even those who are not prone to various other primary or secondary conditions.

Signs and Symptoms of Stress Headaches

People who experience stress headaches can also experience other symptoms alongside the pain. Here are some of the other symptoms one can feel when afflicted with this type of headache:

  • Muscle tension and aches. People who suffer from this type of headache often feel a hardening or aching of the muscles mainly in their shoulders and neck. The muscle pain often precedes the headache and can continue even after the headache has subsided.
  • Photosensitivity. Just like with migraine headaches, people with this type of headache can also experience sensitivity to bright lights and loud sounds. The sensitivity normally occurs alongside the headache, but in some cases of chronic stress headaches, it can also occur in between headache episodes.
  • Poor concentration. While these types of headaches aren’t usually debilitating, the dull pain felt by people suffering from this condition can break their concentration and stop them from performing everyday activities properly.
  • Trouble with sleeping. People who are under a lot of stress may have a hard time winding down at night. Add the pain of a headache, and that makes falling asleep and staying asleep even more difficult.
  • Fatigue and irritability. The combination of stress, muscle pain, and lack of sleep experienced alongside a headache like this can cause a person to feel tired and irritable.

Treating Stress Headaches

There’s a short-term and a long-term approach to treating this type of headache. People who experience chronic headaches due to stress can benefit more from the long term approach as it can give them a chance to live the rest of their life without feeling any pain.

The short-term remedy for stress headaches usually involves taking analgesics that can be bought over the counter. Another way to treat the pain is to apply a cold compress to the face, the back of the head, and the neck. A warm bath can also help in relieving the stress that is causing the headache. Those experiencing chronic headaches caused by stress may want to try a more long-term solution to the problem. This means avoiding pressure-filled situations and being able to handle stress better. Meditation, relaxation exercises, and yoga can also help maintain balance in one’s life and lessen or even eliminate the occurrence of stress headaches.

Although this type of headache is quite common, it is also avoidable. In order to do that, one must get enough rest, exercise, and maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Stress headaches are generally harmless, but if the pain becomes chronic or is interfering with your everyday activities, consult a headache specialist for proper treatment.