Stress Headache Relief

What is a stress headache like?

It's about noon, and you feel it; that familiar band of pain that goes up the back of your neck, over the top of your head, and spreads down over the top of your head.

Oh no, another of those stress related headaches.

It's no wonder that many of us experience stress headaches (also known as a "tension headache") with our fast-paced, caffeine fueled, 24 hour a day, go-go-go society.

In fact, between 30 and 80% of the adults will have this type of headache at some point in our lives.

And, women get these headaches more often than men do.

Getting a Tension Headache

When you get a tension headache, it usually begins gradually instead of having a sudden onset.

Oftentimes, you'll get one in the middle of the day, and it may occur regularly but occasionally (less than 15 days a month) or chronically, where you get them every day, or at least more than 15 days a month.

If you suffer from what are called "episodic" tension headaches, in which they occur regularly but occasionally, they usually don't happen more than once or twice a month. They can happen more frequently, though.

Causes of a stress headache

Most often, these types of headaches come from, yes, you guessed it, stress. That stress can be caused by your environment or by your own internal stress level. Common sources of stress include pressures from work, school, social relationships, family or friends.

Oftentimes, so-called "episodic" tension headaches (those that occur less than 15 days a month) happen because a specific stressful situation occurs, or because stress has built up over time. If you experience significant daily stress, this can lead you to have so-called "chronic" tension headaches, those that occur more than 15 days a month.

Symptoms of a stress headache

If your stress headache is mild to moderate in its intensity, you'll usually have a "band" of pain that's constant and that will last anywhere from about a half an hour to all day.

Usually, tension headaches are mild to moderate intensity and are not that severe. And unlike stress migraines, you're not going to usually experience throbbing, light or sound sensitivity, or nausea or vomiting.

Tension headaches often can be felt upon awakening, along with general muscle aches all over. You may also be experiencing chronic fatigue, irritability, difficulty getting too or staying asleep, and you might have an inability to concentrate.

Occasionally, you might be sensitive to light or noise in a very mild fashion, and you might be occasionally dizzy.

Treating tension headaches

Mild to moderate tension headaches can usually be treated with nonprescription over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or paracetamol.

In some cases, if the causes of the tension a particularly severe or if stress is an ongoing problem, you may be given protection medications like antidepressants to help ease the underlying cause of the headaches.

In addition, non-drug stress management techniques like biofeedback or meditation, as well as other stress coping techniques, may be advised to help you control your tension headaches without drug intervention.

Getting enough sleep and doing other "destressing" techniques

Meditation or simply giving yourself some "down" time so that you get enough sleep can also be a help in easing tension or stress headaches.

In fact, most people in today's society are also sleep deprived, which can fuel tension headaches. Try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, and practice what are called "sleep hygiene techniques." Sleep hygiene is simply the practice of "cleaning up" your sleep environment so that there are no distractions to dropping off to sleep peacefully.

In other words, where you sleep should be dark, quiet and peaceful, and you shouldn't do anything that's going to get you excited or otherwise engage your attention markedly within about a half an hour before you go to sleep. That means no phone calls, no e-mail, and no fast-paced television programs. And no coffee or other caffeine-laced foods or drinks late in the evening, either. That can keep you awake, too.

Give it a try for about a week and see whether your headaches at least lessen in severity, if not disappear altogether. Don't be surprised if they do.

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