Stress and Headache Connection

Updated at: Feb 27, 2012
Stress and Headache Connection

Understand Tension Headache - Stress is the major cause of both migraines and tension headaches. Tension headaches can be episodic or chronic and can be treated with over the counter medications.

Vatsal Anand
Mental HealthWritten by: Vatsal AnandPublished at: Feb 27, 2012

Stress and Headache Stress is one of the major triggers of headaches. These are actually called stress headaches or tension headaches. This problem is more acute in migraine patients. They are considered to be people who are very sensitive to emotional turbulence or other stressful events. When a person is under any kind of stress, certain chemical reactions take place in the brain to counter it. This is known as the “flight” or “fight” response. The release of such chemicals leads to certain changes in the blood vessels of the brain that cause migraine headaches.

Apart from migraines, tension headaches are also the result of stress. There are two types of tension headaches – episodic or chronic. The episodic tension headaches are usually triggered by either a one-off situation of intense stress or its build up over a period of time. You can get rid of these episodes of headaches by over the counter medications. These pain relievers have been found to be effective.

Chronic tension headaches can result from some daily or regular stress conditions. The typical cause of this headache is a high-pressure job which demands a lot from a person. Treatment of this type of tension headache is done by stress management, biofeedback, counselling, and also anti-depressants or other medicines that reduce anxiety.

A tension headache can last from 30 minutes to a whole week. You may feel the pangs of headaches occasionally or nearly persistently. Those with episodic headaches have less than 15 instances of the pain during a month. The episodic headache can easily turn into a chronic headache if treatment and proper care is not taken.

You should be on your guard and immediately seek medical help when the following symptoms show up in your headache –

  • Pain in the head accompanied by dullness.
  • The feeling of something strung tightly around the forehead or on the sides and back of the head. There is a distinct pressure or tightness that is felt.
  • Your scalp, neck or shoulder muscles feel tender or vulnerable.
  • Loss of appetite can occasionally result.

Your headaches can be mild to moderately intense and it is not the same for everyone. At times, you may be at a loss to understand it as tension headache and confuse it with a migraine. If over the counter medications taken more than twice a week does not help in stopping your headaches, it is advisable to visit your doctor for treatment.


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