We live in a stressful world, and very few people are immune to that stress and what it does to the body. It is believed that more than 80 percent of headaches are related to stress (from both physical and psychological inputs and ailments). As such, treating stress headaches is important, particularly if they become chronic and compromise quality of life. One of the best ways to treat these headaches at the root is through chiropractic care.
Stress headaches are those not caused by other underlying conditions or illnesses. They manifest as the shoulder and neck muscles contract and lead to pain at the base of the skull. Millions of people get stress headaches, but most only get them periodically when the body is stressed from being tired, worried, hungry, overstimulated, overworked, or frustrated. Different from migraines, stress headaches aren’t generally paired with other sensory-overload issues or nausea, and they more commonly occur in the afternoon or evening or with lack of sleep, a missed meal, or extreme physical exertion.
Signs and Symptoms: The pain of a stress headache can extend to the back, both sides, or front of the head and is described as dull, vise-like pressure or like a band being pulled tight. People experiencing stress headaches may also have muscle tension and aches, mild sensitivity to bright light and loud sounds, issues with concentration and performance, and trouble sleeping, all of which can lead to fatigue and irritability.
Although these headaches are quite common and mostly harmless, they are also avoidable and manageable when infrequent. Generally, a person getting enough rest, exercising, and maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle are more able to avoid them. However, if the pain becomes chronic or consistent and interferes with everyday activities, consulting a specialist for treatment is recommended.
It’s important to take headaches seriously, and stress headaches can be treated in various ways. Some treatments are best for short-term help to relieve the symptoms while others are beneficial for long-term results that strive to eliminate the occurrence of the headaches.
Short-Term Treatments: Quick remedies for stress headaches include taking over-the-counter pain medications; applying a cold pack or compress to the face, back of the head, and neck; and taking a warm bath to relax the body. Also, making sure to avoid skipping meals, drink more water, and take breaks from stressful situations can allay the symptoms.
Long-Term Treatments: People experiencing chronic stress headaches benefit more from a long-term approach so they can live their life without this pain. Long-term treatments often involve life changes, such as avoiding pressure-filled situations, implementing focused self-care, or adopting techniques like meditation, relaxation exercises, and yoga that help them handle stress better. Others recommend acupuncture to ease energy imbalances and blockages or even seeing a therapist to change negative thought patterns.
Although all the short- and long-term treatments are a good start since reducing stress can lessen physical pain, when one is suffering from chronic stress headaches, it’s better to take the physical stresses out of the equation before the pain can set in. That’s where chiropractic care comes in.
Dr. Rick Gross of Quality Care Chiropractic states, “Most of the recommendations are not that useful since anyone with a headache already has tried Tylenol or Aleve or something similar; and ‘handle stress better,’ ‘exercise,’ or ‘maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle’ are very vague and rather difficult to change significantly just for treating a headache.”
Chiropractors can assess, diagnose, and manage most headaches. Chiropractic adjustments are known to reduce the mental and emotional stress load associated with tension (band-like head pressure) and cervicogenic (neck and face pain) headaches with positive, long-term effects. Although not a cure for migraines, studies have shown that chiropractic care also can help decrease their intensity and frequency.
A notable study from Duke University found that chiropractic spinal manipulation “appeared to result in immediate improvement in headache severity when used to treat episodes of cervicogenic control. Furthermore, when compared to soft-tissue therapies (massage), a course of manipulation treatments resulted in sustained improvement in headache frequency and severity.”
Basically, thorough and regular chiropractic care keeps the spine in alignment, which removes the stress or strain that often causes chronic headaches. When spine muscles or nerves are out of position, the person will have more headaches with increased severity.
According to Dr. Gross, effective chiropractic treatments for stress headaches include:
If you are suffering from the pain of chronic headaches, frequently take pain relievers for headaches, experience a change in headache pattern, or feel your headaches are getting worse, consider chiropractic treatment to treat the cause and not the symptoms. Contact Quality Care Chiropractic at (630) 499-2225 to learn how we can help improve your quality of life.Schedule an Appointment