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Headaches Part 2 – Managing the Pain of Stress

January 17, 2011

If I were to ask you if you thought stress played a role in the development of headaches I’m sure you would reply “yes”, and you would be correct.  In fact, a recent study reports that stress may play a larger role, especially in tension type headaches, than was originally thought.  But stress is a much broader term than the emotions you may normally associate with it.  Our daily dose of stress takes three basic forms:  1) Physical stresses – the positions and movements we perform each day; 2) Chemical stresses – foods, perfumes, deodorants, environmental toxins; 3) Psychological stresses – the daily grind, relationships with family/friends/coworkers, self image.  When stress in any of these categories builds up to more than what our body can effectively manage, one of the symptoms can be a headache.  Let’s see what you can do to keep those stresses under control.

Physical Stress

Stretching. Muscles in the neck and upper back can become tight and tender over time.  Stretch them regularly to keep them relaxed.

Ergonomics. Ergonomics refers to the positions and movements we perform on a daily basis.  Many of us have jobs that require long periods of sitting in front of a computer.  Make sure that your monitor, keyboard, chair and desk are set up in a comfortable and supportive manner.  Just as important is to get up and move around frequently to avoid muscles and joints from becoming stiff.

Exercise. Your body is built to move – don’t disappoint it.  Regular exercise keeps muscles and joints limber, increases blood flow, and helps you to feel well in general.

Drink Water. Beverages high in caffeine, sugar, and alcohol can dehydrate you, leaving your muscles susceptible to tightening up and causing pain.  Drink more water.

Chemical Stress

Food triggersMigraine headache sufferers are especially prone to some common food triggers including but not limited to:  chocolate, caffeine, nitrates (found in processed meats), cheese, nuts, and wine.  Try to avoid any of these that induce a headache for you.

Cleaning and hygiene products:  Avoid perfumes, deodorants, scented laundry detergents and fabric softeners, air fresheners.  The chemicals in these products are often headache triggers.

Toxic Waste:  Limit your time playing on or around toxic waste dumps.  Contrary to popular belief, there is a low probability of developing super powers.  I know I shouldn’t have to say it, but…

Psychological Stress

Relationships: Try to maintain good open/honest relationships with family/friends/coworkers.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever disagree with them.  Rather, when you do, you can work things out so that negative emotions don’t build up.

Sleep: Get into a regular sleeping pattern.  Getting good rest is essential for your body to repair and rejuvenate.  A set sleep schedule helps your body and mind to get that rest more easily.

Relax: Take time each day and do some active relaxation to reduce the mental load you’re carrying around.  Meditation, deep breathing, prayer, and yoga are just some of the activities to help.

Self esteem: It can be difficult to try and incorporate all of these tips at once.  Instead, pick one or two, do them regularly, and feel good about your progress.  Then, slowly add in more.

Finding the right combination of the above factors is different for everyone.  Give it some time and effort and find what’s right for you in controlling your headaches.  Sometimes, however, you may need some extra help – next week’s post will address the chiropractic  side of managing headaches.

If you would like more information on headaches, healthy living, or chiropractors in Guelph, you can contact Guelph Chiropractors at Clear Path Chiropractic.

Photo Credit:  felixkrueger

From → Headaches

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