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Stress & Headache - Understanding The Relation Between The Two!

Written and reviewed by
Dr. K Kartik Revanappa 89% (17 ratings)
MCh - Neurosurgery , MS - Orthopaedics
Neurosurgeon, Bangalore  •  16 years experience
Stress & Headache - Understanding The Relation Between The Two!

Stress has become an integral and inevitable part of life. From personal life to professional commitments, the trigger can be anything. While there can be many common and harmful effects of stress, one that deserves a special mention is a headache. Almost 90% of the people worldwide get a Tension Headache (a term often used for a headache associated with stress).

In case, when headache is due to tension,  the head feels tight and heavy. Further, a person may experience pressure mainly around the forehand and also at the back side of the head, moving down to the neck. However, it is important that one does not confuse a tension headache with a migraine. The two are as different as chalk and cheese. A tension headache can be chronic or episodic. A person with a chronic tension headache may suffer from the condition frequently. On the other hand, if a person gets a tension headache for less than 15 days a month, the headache is said to be episodic. The condition is more severe and painful in a chronic tension headache.

What causes a tension headache?
While stress (physical, mental and emotional) is the major contributing factor, the following triggers may also play a pivotal role in a tension headache.

  • Severe anxiety and depression.
  • Lack of a proper rest and sound sleep.
  • Extreme fatigue (physical or mental) or hunger can also result in a tension headache.
  • A person with iron deficiency may also suffer from a tension headache.

Managing a stress related headache
Managing and eliminating stress can go a long way to prevent a tension headache. The following activities are sure to make the situation better

  1. Sleep well to keep stress at bay: Sleep can work wonders to reduce stress and the associated headache. Maintain a healthy sleep cycle. Work is important, but compromising on your sleep is foolish. It is important that you sleep for not less than 6-8 hours daily.
  2. A healthy diet for a stress-free life: A healthy diet can play a significant role to reduce stress, thereby enhancing your moods. Enrich your diet with dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolates, nuts, probiotics, berries (especially blueberries), seeds (sesame, pumpkin, and sunflower), foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods rich in vitamins, magnesium, and potassium are known to be great mood enhancers. Try and avoid processed foods as well as foods rich in fats and complex carbohydrates as much as you can.
  3. Meditation can help: People under stress can benefit immensely from meditations, exercise, and physical activities. Exercise is known to trigger the release of endorphins or feel good hormones. Endorphins can lift up your mood and spirits to a great extent.
  4. Family time: Spending time with your family and loved ones can also help to reduce stress.

Stress and headache can both be managed and taken care of if you follow a healthy lifestyle. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Neurosurgeon.

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