Everyone has stress in their lives. No one is immune and research has linked high stress levels to an increased occurrence of headaches. It has been suspected for many years stress causes physical problems and now studies definitely prove that theory. Researchers have found that for every headache type, the more stress you experience the more headaches you will feel.
Stress headaches may show up periodically or episodic. If you have stress headaches less than 15 days every month your headaches are considered episodic. If you have headaches more than 15 days every month, you will be diagnoses with chronic headaches. Both episodic and chronic stress headaches can be described as a constant band of pain, pressure or tightness around the forehead or the back of the neck and head. Episodic stress headaches begin gradually and are often at their peak in the middle of the day. They can last up to thirty minutes at a session or several days.
Chronic stress headaches increase with every headache. The come and go over a prolonged period of time and the pain is throbbing. The front, top or sides of your head can be effected. The pain can vary throughout the day but it is always there. Chronic stress headaches will not affect vision, strength or balance, but they do make you irritable and anxious.
It is estimated about 80% of the adult U.S. population gets occasional stress headaches. Three percent of those suffer from chronic daily stress headaches. Women are more likely to suffer from these types of headaches then men and headaches can often last as long as 90 days. The causes of stress headaches have no real measurable source. It is not an inherited trait running in families, but is mainly a reaction to muscle tension in the back of the neck and scalp. Your stress headache can be caused by:
- Poor posture
- Emotional or mental stress that includes depression
- Inadequate rest
Often your stress headache is triggered by environmental or internal traumas. The most stressors include family and social relationships, friends, school and work. Other examples are:
- Problems at home
- A new baby
- No close friends to talk to
- Preparing for exams and tests
- Getting ready for vacation
- A new job
- Losing a job
- Being overweight
- Work Deadlines
- Competing in sports
- Trying to be a perfectionist
- And being involved in too many outside activities and organizations.
Episodic or chronic stress headaches are generally triggered by an isolated situation or a continual build-up of stress. Daily stress leads to chronic stress headaches. It is a somewhat Catch-22 situation when you have a stress headache. You experienced the headache due to stress and now the headache is causing you more stress which keeps the headache “going.”
Symptoms of a Stress Headache
Look for these symptoms to determine if your headache is caused by stress:
- Mild to moderate pain or pressure
- Headache later in the day
- Difficult falling and staying asleep
- Chronic fatigue
- Concentration issues
- Sensitivity to light and noise
- Achy Muscles
Do note that stress headaches are not migraine headaches. There are no neurological symptoms and stress headaches generally go away with medication and rest.
Treat your stress headaches and learn to prevent further attacks by taking the medications your doctor recommends. Use pain relievers, muscle relaxants and antidepressants as prescribed. Try to take stress management and relaxation training and therapies. Use biofeedback and utilize your tried and tested home remedies. Perhaps the best cure for a stress headache is a good night’s sleep.