Stress Headache  

Earth Day Yoga

A stress headache is mainly caused when we have had a stressful day and have tensed the muscles in our shoulders and neck to the point that it has caused a build up of tension causing the headache.

We all suffer from headaches from time to time and most of the time there is no real cause apart from having had a hard day at work and feeling tired.

It is estimated that nine out of every ten headaches are stress related.

However when headaches become a regular occurrence, it can cause anxiety disorders due to worry of what could be causing them.

Of course the first thing you should do if you do have headaches often is to have a check-up with your doctor.

Tension Headaches and Migraines

As mentioned before, when we have had a stressful day we tend to tense our neck and shoulder muscles subconsciously. We have all seen it in someone else:

  • The hunched shoulders
  • The furrowed brow

When these muscles are tense for long periods of time they start to affect other muscles in the face, such as the frontailis muscle in the forehead and the temporalis muscles on the side of your head. When these are tense they trigger the stress headache also known as a tension headache. 

The symptoms of this type of headache are:

  • An aching sensation in the head
  • A feeling of pressure on the head
  • A migraine headache can also be triggered by stress and started in the same with tense muscles. It is also believed that it is triggered by the stress hormone serotonin.

The symptoms of this headache can be far worse and last for much longer and the person may experience:

  • Throbbing pains in the head often on one side
  • Visual disturbance such as seeing fuzzy lines
  • Nausea
  • Aversion to light

Other Causes of Stress Headache

These stress headaches are believed to be triggered not only by stress but also with an interaction of other factors such as:

Certain types of food – mainly chocolate, tea, coffee, cheese. Dairy products, nuts

Lack of food – not eating regular meals or skipping breakfast

Sleep problems – also a change in sleeping routines can also help to cause headaches

Hormonal changes – many women experience headaches around their period or as the menopause begins.

Muscle tension – sitting at computer desks with hunched shoulders is a sure fire way to the start of a stress headache.

Overexertion – if you are not used to hard work and are unfit then a bout of heavy lifting or excessive gardening can trigger a headache.

Avoiding Stress Headaches

Because it is believed that there are a number of triggers at work together which produce these types of headaches it can sometimes be difficult to know what the actual cause or causes are.

This is why keeping a diary for a period of time can help to clarify what your particular triggers are and whether or not there is a link between a certain combinations of factors.

The headache diary

Whenever you have a headache, keep a record of these factors:

  • Date
  • Time of day
  • Symptoms
  • What was you doing just before the headache came on
  • What had you eaten that day before the headache came on
  • How many cups of tea, coffee etc had you had
  • Did you feel stressed that day and if so why
  • Did you eat at regular times and did you have a proper meal or did you snack.

Over a period of time you may start to notice a pattern appearing or a link between certain foods or satiations that seem to trigger your headaches. You can now begin to make sure that you avoid this combination of factors which could be causing the headaches.

Headache Relief

Of course once you have the headache the most important thing is how to relieve the symptoms and the pain.

Muscle relaxation – because tense muscles are often the cause of the headache and because it is likely that you will still be tensing your muscles while you have the pain, you should learn to practice muscle relaxation exercises.

Neck and face massage – this is a great way to help relive and tension you may have in your face.

Hot baths – A lovely hot bath filled with calming scented oils is a good way to help you relax.

Lavender oil – Massage drops of diluted lavender oil onto your temples or add some to your pillow at night to aid a restful sleep.

Retreat – If the pain is so bad and you cannot carry on your daily activities then as well as taking some pain killers; you should also retreat to a dark room and lie down. This often helps to relieve the headache sooner.


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