Headaches and Stress: Partners in Crime

Headaches and Stress: Partners in Crime

Last update: 29 September, 2016

There are many types of headaches, but the ones triggered by stress are the most common, familiar, and persistent. These headaches suffocate us with their exhausting grip and weaken our vitality right up until the end of the day.

According to studies done by the Mayo Clinicstress headaches consistently affect 78% of the population. They’re related to an increase in tension in the neck, shoulders, and jaw that tend to intensify the pain, which can all be very limiting.

Daily stress tugs on us like the strings of a violin that want to be tuned to the melody of pain and anguish. The music sounds like a dull heartbeat loaded with suffering.

From a psychological point of view, it’s interesting to analyze this kind of pain. It’s one of the rawest symptoms of stress, whose emotional anatomy alters the chemical balance in the brain, muscles, vertebrae, and cranial nerves, which only increases the tension and pain.

Let’s look in detail at the origin of this well-known enemy and how to combat it.

headache pain

Headaches and negative emotions

The body channels and receives the impact of each one of our emotions, positive or negative. Far from being a subtle act, the intimate relationship between headaches and stress is the result of a complex system where neurotransmitters, metabolites, nerves, and the heart start a process that can be difficult to control.

When you face any kind of pain, it’s necessary to prevent it from taking control of your life. It’s best to control the triggers and face it with endurance and courage.

According to a study done by the University of Maryland, tension headaches associated with stress affect females at a higher rate than males. Despite being one of the most common types of pain, this type of headache is one of the most forgotten and difficult to treat.

However, as they say in cases like these, you have to know your enemy to be able to face it with your best weapons, the ones that suit your own characteristics and needs. For this type of headache, it’s not always useful to take a painkiller, so you should learn more about different strategies and prevention techniques.


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The origin of stress headaches

It still isn’t known exactly how tension headaches associated with stress originate. For years, scientists thought that it was primarily due to the tightening of muscles in the shoulders, neck, head, and jaw when you feel tense.

We have to remember that stress and anxiety are like alarms for the brain that signal a risk we should escape from. Our instincts prepare us to flee, but our rational side stops us and obligates us to remain still, which causes a lot of tension.

The most recent conclusion that experts have come to is that muscular tension activates the release of certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin for example, which activate the pain pathways in the brain.

It’s interesting that we can also suffer from these headaches after we get home from work or when the weekend arrives. The body and brain can’t recall what it means to relax, and the pain remains or even increases.

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How to deal with stress to prevent headaches

Like we said before, everybody has to find their own method that fits their needs. With medical help and the appropriate strategies to fight daily stress, you can manage this common type of pain in a much better way.

We invite you to reflect on two simple techniques that might help you:

  • Awareness. Set limits that you want to reach each day. A common mistake is to fill your schedule with too many tasks, going through the day making lists upon lists. Maybe it’s time to set limits. Think things like: “I’m not going to worry about things that aren’t important,” “I’m not going to let that affect me,” “I’m not going to let that person bother me anymore,” “at 6:00 I’ll stop and take a break,” etc.
  • Start and end your day peacefully. It might seem silly, but something as simple as getting up a half hour earlier and enjoying a few moments of relaxation, silence, and meditation can help you face the day with more balance. This should also be repeated at the end of the day. Two hours before you go to bed, remember to give yourself time to relax.
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It’s all about finding time to reconnect with life and yourself. Allow yourself to be peaceful, balanced, and above all, present, and don’t subject yourself to the relentless waves of stress that make your heart beat faster and distract you from your priorities.

A headache is only the first warning sign of stress or anxiety. You should prevent stress and anxiety, which are common yet dangerous, to prevent these headaches and other problems that might occur.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.