Stress and Tension Headaches: Ways to Stop the Pain

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Stress and tension headaches are inter-related. Physicians report that the most common complaint they hear is that their patients are experiencing stress, and the second most common complaint is that their patients are experiencing muscle tension headaches.  Up to 80% of the adult U.S. population suffer from occasional tension headaches.  These headaches are caused by muscles located at the back of the neck and scalp that tighten to produce pain.  They often occur as a result of poor sleep, anxiety, hunger, poor posture or poor nutrition.



Your body reacts to stress by tightening muscles.  Muscle tension and immobility can stress your joints and reduce your blood flow, contributing to decreased energy and feelings of fatigue and strain.  Tension headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and a bad back often develop as a result of how you hold yourself.  If you have tense muscles, you are also more likely to worry and to stay upset longer.  If you have stress and tension headaches, no doubt, you have experienced some or all of these symptoms.

Stop the Tension Headaches Cycle

Check Your Ergonomics.

If your tension headaches occur while you are working in an office setting, you may find that your workstation is not designed with proper ergonomics. Ergonomics refers to the design of the equipment you work with including your furniture, lighting, and tools that allow you to work productively without putting strain on your body or causing fatigue.


With a well designed workstation, you will be comfortable as you work and less likely to experience headaches, muscles aches or eyestrain. Employing proper ergonomics helps reduce carpal tunnel syndrome and other muscle fatigue related to jobs with repetitive activities. Review your ergonomic workstation design so that you can work more comfortably and be more productive.

Take a Massage Break.

• Close your eyes and put your finger just below your eye at the top of the cheekbone. Do a circular motion with your finger and gently do it for a minute.


• Put your thumb under your eyebrows then feel where the bone meets the Nose Bridge and eyes. Press very gently and then do it four times for ten seconds.


• Use your palms to gently massage your scalp for a minute.<br>
After doing any of these massages breathe in very deep and then breathe out.  Deep breathing is very relaxing and should lessen the pain in your head.

Take Time to Relax.

The goal with relaxation techniques is to decrease your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure.  You are calming down your body’s natural processes that under stress are revved up.  Your body’s relaxation response can be achieved through yoga, walking, swimming, gardening, or any activity that diverts your attention from your stress and tension headaches. Try breathing exercises to help with a relaxation break.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to relax.  It expands the belly and moves the diaphragm.  Breathing from your abdomen reduces stress and induces a state of quiet and calm.  Deep breathing involves your entire chest.

Listen to Your Body.

If you are experiencing headaches at work, what is the body telling you?  Slow down?  If they get worse will you listen? Understanding the physical effects of stress and the physical symptoms of stress can help you identify when stress is becoming harmful.  Your mind has a great deal of control over how your body reacts.  When you experience stress and tension headaches, the body is reacting to the way your mind is thinking about the stressful events or worrying about a stressful situation that might happen in the future.


Try to identify the patterns that may occur with the timing of the stress and subsequent headaches, or the types of stress that provoke a tension headache.  If stress and tension headaches are a part of your life, try to make time between stressful events to give your body time to recuperate before moving on to the next task.  It has been statistically proven that the quality of work improves proportionately when people recuperate fully. By learning to become more aware of what your body is telling you, you will find that you can increase your body’s physical resistance to stress and tension headaches.

Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Stress

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