April 10th, 2020
Millions of people suffer from different types of headaches. A few include sinus headaches, hormone headaches, and migraines. Different types of stress can also play a role in causing headaches. In fact, stress-related headaches are considered one of the most common headaches that people have. It's important to understand how a stress headache differs from other types, the causes of these types of headaches, and how a physical therapist may be able to help.
What Are Stress-Related Headaches?
A stress-related headache is sometimes called a tension headache. You might experience a dull, achy pain along your forehead or through the back of your head. The pain sometimes starts in the neck or shoulders and progresses through areas in the head. Sometimes there may be aching or pain in the jaws and cheeks. During stressful situations, our bodies often go into fight or flight mode. Certain chemicals in the brain can be released during this time that can cause a variety of changes in the body that result in pain.
What Causes Stress-Related Headaches?
There are several reasons that you may be suffering from a stress-related headache. Anxiety, fatigue, and general stress can all contribute to headaches. Certain health-related conditions, including arthritis, can cause headaches. Even poor posture can contribute to stress-related headaches. The stress an individual is experiencing can make muscles tense and also cause blood vessels to dilate. This can cause stress-related headaches and may make other types of headaches, such as migraines, worse.
Why Should You Visit a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapy might not be the first thing that comes to mind when considering treatment options for headaches. Physical therapy, however, may be the ideal treatment if you're experiencing tension or stress headaches. A physical therapist would probably conduct a review of your medical history and conduct a thorough evaluation of your current physical abilities and limitations. A specific treatment plan could then be created that would address your individual condition. There are several specific ways that physical therapy can help reduce stress-related headaches.
- Soft Tissue Mobilization- Massage and other types of manual therapy can often provide immediate relief from pain associated with stress headaches. A physical therapist using the correct massage techniques can help prevent contractions in the shoulders, neck, and head that can cause headaches.
- Heat or Ice Compression- Alternating between heat and cold therapy can often reduce the tension and stress in muscles. It not only reduces muscle strain but can provide immediate soothing relief.
- Stretching Exercises- Stretching exercises can help loosen tight muscles and ligaments in your neck and back that are contributing to your headaches. Certain stretches may also strengthen muscles in your neck and back. You can reduce pressure in your neck and shoulders as the muscles become stronger and more flexible.
- Lifestyle Modification- A physical therapist can teach you new ways of sitting, standing, and even different ways to complete daily tasks that can reduce the stress and tension that contributes to stress headaches. Over time, even improved posture may be able to decrease the amount of headaches you experience.
If you're struggling with stress-related headaches an individual physical therapy plan may be able to reduce or even eliminate your headache pain. You'll want to contact a physical therapist who can help alleviate your headaches and get you on the path to a pain-free life.