Can Stress Cause Headaches?

Can Stress Cause Headaches?

There’s no getting around the fact that life has been plenty stressful for everyone lately. Unfortunately, the longer the stress goes on, the more susceptible you might be to a wide range of mental and physical health conditions, including headaches.

Our team here at Pain Medicine Consultants has considerable experience helping people find relief from head pain. While there are effective treatments that we can provide, there are steps you can take on your own, especially if your headaches are related to stress.

Here, we take a closer look at how stress can be related to head pain and the steps you can take to reduce both.

The effects of normal stress on your body

When you’re stressed, there’s a physiological response that occurs in your body, which is also called a flight-or-fight response. 

At the heart of your stress response is the release of adrenal and cortisol hormones, which flood your body and cause:

This response is designed to give you the tools you need to either defend yourself or flee. Once the perceived threat disappears, your body should stop releasing stress hormones, and everything goes back to normal.

Living in a constant state of stress

When you exist in prolonged states of stress and anxiety, your body can feel the effects in many ways, including:

The last item on this list usually comes in the form of tension headaches, which are also called stress headaches. These types of headaches affect nearly a third of adults in the United States periodically, making them the most common type of primary headache. 

Tension headaches, as the name implies, are headaches that present as tension around your head — a bit like your head is caught in a grip. You can feel the pain in your forehead, around your head, and even at the back of your neck.

As we already explained, one of the physiological responses to stress is muscle, so the relationship between stress and your tension headache can be quite direct.

Relieving your tension headaches through stress management

Since tension headaches are often related to stress, it makes sense that any steps you can take to reduce stress in your life are ones well worth taking.

Some of the techniques that our patients find quite helpful are:

Another effective way to relieve stress is to unplug from the world every once in a while, which means turning off the news and putting your phone down for some quiet time.

Most of the tips we mention above are easily accessible, such as online yoga classes or meditation apps. Not to mention, taking a nice walk outside simply entails walking out the front door.

If you want to learn more about how you can control your headaches through stress management, contact one of our offices in Corte Madera, Pleasanton, or Pleasant Hill, California.

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