Fighting Stress Headaches

General Article

Fighting Stress Headaches

Stress headaches, or tension headaches, affect nearly every person from time to time. They aren’t usually an indication of anything serious, and more of a minor annoyance that usually can be remedied through a mild pain reliever. A stress headache produces a mild to moderate pain across the head, often described as a tight rubber band around the head.

There are numerous reported potential causes for stress headaches, but for the most part the source of headaches is unknown. The good news is that tension headaches can be easily remedied through pain relievers and a healthy lifestyle.

Some headaches may come on fast and disappear without causing too much discomfort. However, sometimes tension headaches can last for up to a week coming in waves of intensity. Headaches often strike people in waves, where they may feel discomfort followed by relief over a period of time. This is called episodic tension headaches. Often, the choice of headache remedy is only providing temporary relief and not tackling the cause of the headaches, therefore extending the discomfort. Some headache relief medications contain caffeine which provides momentary relief but can just extend the headache episode by not breaking the headache cycle.

Not knowing the causes of your headache can be frustrating. To better understand the causes of your headaches, it’s beneficial to keep track of what might be triggering them. This may be as simple as food choices, a disruption in sleep patterns or environmental factors. Some women have sensitivity to high levels of estrogen which may need to be modified to break the headache cycle.

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Researchers are trying to determine if tension headaches stem from chemical imbalances in the brain. There are certain brain chemicals including serotonin and endorphins that help the nerves communicate with the brain and the body. Disruption in the normal flow of these chemicals in the brain can cause mild pain. Muscle tension is also linked to changes in chemical balance, which consequently can also lead to headaches. Researchers are still trying to determine why the chemical balance gets interrupted. But, at the same time, doctors know that certain personal factors may lead to the chemical imbalance, which makes prevention and avoidance of triggers important to headache relief.

Treatment for mild to moderate tension headaches can be inexpensive and effective. Many over-the-counter medicines found at your local drug store or supermarket can provide relief for tension headaches. Such medicines as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be taken for tension headaches. If you are struggling with chronic headaches consistently over a long period of time, you should see a doctor. Over-the-counter medicines may not provide you any relief and something stronger might need to be prescribed by a doctor.

Doctors recommend that you do not abuse over-the-counter medicines for headaches. It can lead to rebound headaches and the continuation of tension headaches. If you are having tension headaches more than 15 days in a month, it may be an indication of a larger problem that will need the attention of a doctor.

Aside from medicine, lifestyle changes can help with your headache management. Again, exercise and an active, healthy lifestyle can reduce your likelihood of getting tension headaches. Combined with a good diet and rest, a reduction in stress can also lessen your predisposition to headaches. Muscle tension is usually linked to stress and therefore can be a factor in headache development. Relaxing the muscles and maintaining good posture are also helpful in avoiding a stress headache. In general, if you stay active and focus on a healthy lifestyle, you may find you have few stress headaches.

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