Stress can come in many forms, and it’s an element of concern for many of the conditions our Toronto physiotherapists and chiropractors treat every day - including headaches.

It may seem at first to have more of an effect on mental rather than physical health. Looking at the effects of stress, however, points out the undeniable links between state of mind and state of general health.

The problem with stress...

The problem for many of us who live in an urbanized world is that stress is practically built into daily life.

  • You’re tied to a fixed schedule, even as commuting times are unpredictable (no matter how it’s done);
  • Your job duties and workload may be unpredictable;
  • Your schedule is so busy you feel like you never have time to unwind.

Stress doesn’t have to involve a dramatic or unusual situation, such as a car accident or job loss. The build up of stress through everyday situations can have just as much of an effect over time.

How does it turn into a headache?

Your body responds to the stress in various ways, including:

  • Muscle tension;
  • Teeth grinding;
  • Shoulders tense up.

Stress has been found to be a common trigger for headaches, including:

  • Tension headaches;
  • Migraines.

A tension-type headache, or TTH, feels like a tight band wrapped around your head, with a dull ache at mild to moderate levels. Unlike migraines, TTH are not usually accompanied by visual disturbances or nausea.

  • There may also be tenderness in the neck and shoulders or even scalp;
  • They may be episodic or chronic, lasting for days or even weeks.

Stress may also trigger other types of headaches, or make an existing headache worse.

Treat the pain

Medications are available that can help, including over the counter medications. Your treating medical professional can provide advice and recommendations based on your condition.

  • Heating pads can provide pain relief, and help relax muscles
  • Medical acupuncture can prove to be effective;
  • Exercises and stretching can help relieve muscle pain.

If you suffer from persistent or frequent headaches, our Toronto chiropractors and other sports medicine specialists can help guide you to a diagnosis and customized treatment plan based on the underlying causes.

Treat the stress

The key to reducing stress tension headaches is to reduce the effects of stress – unlocking the link between the feeling of stress and its physical effects.

  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or Tai Chi can be effective in reducing the effects of stress.
  • Cleaning up your schedule by streamlining your days, and avoiding overloading your schedule with too many commitments will go a long way towards reducing everyday tensions.

Treat yourself well

Treating yourself well is another way of phrasing self care. Stress can be looked at as an imbalance, and looking after your basic needs helps to get balance back.

  • Add exercise to your everyday – it’s a proven method of stress relief, and may even work to treat the headache itself. Avoid overdoing it, though, as that can also cause muscle tension.
  • Eat well, making sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, to give your body the fuel it needs to function at optimal levels.
  • Get plenty of sleep, and if you have trouble with it, seek help.

Headaches can be the body’s reaction to stress and tension. If you are experiencing tension headaches, or other chronic pain, contact one of our Toronto physiotherapy and sports medicine clinics for a consultation today.