Stress can be a contributing factor of headaches; in fact, it can even cause them to occur in the first place. Many people find that when they can effectively manage their stress, they can tame their headaches and reduce headache pain. A stress headache sometimes referred to as a tension headache, is different than a migraine headache in that it does not typically induce nausea, vomiting, or a sensitivity to light as migraines frequently do. Even though the pain of these headaches may be managed, it's ideal if you can prevent them through stress management.

What Is a Stress Headache?

A stress headache is one of the most common types of headache pain. It can cause some people to feel as though there is a tight band around their head. Some people experience neck pain or intense pain behind their eyes. From a physiological standpoint, these episodic headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck. But what causes these muscles to contract? Many things—staring too long at a computer, reading too long, feeling cold, suffering the onset of an infection, taking in too much caffeine, and experiencing emotional stress.

Stress headache


Types of Stress that Trigger Headaches

Driving at night for a long period and the strain on your eye that it can cause may be enough to trigger a stress headache. Emotional stress can also trigger these types of headaches. Experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one can is naturally stressful and can lead to a throbbing headache. An argument, break-up, bad news, work stress, and other types of stressful situations can cause a person to experience stress headaches. If you suffer from chronic stress, you might find that you also suffer from chronic stress headaches as well.

Types of Stress that Trigger Headaches


Other Stressors

Running late for a meeting, getting stuck in traffic, receiving an unexpected bill, needing home repairs, or losing your car keys can be enough to trigger a stress headache in some people. If you are prone to stress headaches, you might find that you get them several times a month—even a couple times each week. It’s important to tell your doctor about your headaches even if you’re sure they can be attributed to these sorts of stressful events. Sometimes a headache isn't attributable to stress. However, unless your doctor runs tests, you might not know that there is another underlying issue behind your headaches. It's always best to get a check-up if your headaches escalate in frequency or become more severe.


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Symptoms: Pain and Pressure

Many people who experience stress headaches complain of pain and pressure in their heads. In fact, they might say that their head feels like it’s throbbing. The pain might be mild but it can also grow in intensity. Some people might experience tenderness on their scalp or around their forehead when they’re suffering from a stress headache. These symptoms can last for several hours or even longer.

Stress Headache Pressure


Severe Symptoms

Some people experience headaches that cause nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. These headaches are referred to as migraines. If your headache causes these symptoms or others such as a loss of balance, slurred speech, seizures, or a fever, it’s important to consult a doctor. While stress headaches are common, some headaches can be triggered by more serious health conditions such as aneurysms or stroke. Unless you typically suffer migraines, you should also get those symptoms checked in order to rule out potentially serious health concerns.


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Visit Your Healthcare Provider

If you begin to experience stress headaches frequently or you suffer an acute episode that involves severe symptoms, you should consult your doctor right away. Health concerns like brain tumors, aneurysms, stroke, or other conditions can lead to frequent or severe headaches. Your doctor can assess the situation and may order tests to rule out serious problems. Then, they can formulate a plan for helping you manage your headache symptoms—and possibly even prevent headache onset in the first place.

Stress Headache Doctor


Headache Medication

If you suffer periodic tension headaches, you might want to take an over-the-counter headache medication. These medications are designed to alleviate the symptoms of common stress headaches. Doctors warn that it’s not a good idea to take these medications routinely, however, as they can lead to lead to overuse. Overusing these medications may reduce their effectiveness. If your headaches are chronic in nature, your healthcare provider can recommend a treatment plan.


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Supplements for Stress Headaches

Some people find that they suffer more frequent bouts of stress headaches when they’re low in certain vitamins or minerals. You might want to take a supplement to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need for optimum health. Magnesium and riboflavin, for example, have been said to help prevent the onset of stress headaches. Again, talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have any nutrient deficiencies. In many cases, taking a supplement can ensure that you get the nutrients you need to help prevent stress headaches from striking. Sometimes our modern diets don't provide us with the nutrients we need to support optimum health. If this is the case for you, you might consider consulting your doctor about incorporating certain nutritional supplements into your routine.


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Stress Management Techniques

Keeping stress at bay can help you ward off stress headaches. Exercise can support the release of feel-good endorphins that may help dispel anxiety triggered by stress. Some people find yoga to be helpful for managing stress. Eating healthy and getting a normal amount of sleep can help the body combat the harmful effects of stress. In cases of extreme stress, people might want to consult their doctor or a counselor to get help managing their condition, particularly if their stress is ongoing. Stress can negatively affect health in many other ways too.


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Preventing Stress Headaches

Effectively managing stress can help you ward off a stress headache. While it’s not always possible to prevent stress, it’s important to understand what causes your stress so you can learn to cope with it in healthy ways. If driving to work each day causes you to become irritable or filled with angst, consider carpooling or taking public transportation. Some people find that the stress of their job is so great that they must consider a career change. If you can eliminate common types of stress, you may be able to prevent headaches from occurring frequently. Think about what types of stress trigger your headaches and determine how you can best eliminate these stressful events from your life.


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