45 million Americans suffer from headaches. And according to the American College of Physicians, 3 in 4 of those headaches are related to tension in the neck and shoulders.
Headaches Fall Into 3 Major Categories
Migraine: Migraines are defined as intense, throbbing pain on one side of the head. They can worsen with light or noise and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. About 12% of Americans suffer from migraine headaches.
Tension: Tension headaches usually involve both sides of the head and are associated with stress and bad posture. They’re most common in women over the age of 20 and tend to be exacerbated in noisy and hot conditions.
Cluster: Cluster headaches are more common in men and are categorized as non-throbbing pain behind one eye. They may occur up to four times a day.
Managing Chronic Headaches
Keep a Headache Diary: Tracking your headaches can give you some insight into headache triggers, patterns and remedies that work for you. This one from Children’s Hospital Boston is geared for kids, but is a great template for grown-ups, too.
Try Acupuncture: In this study, patients who received acupuncture for one year had significant improvement in headache symptoms than the control group. The patients in the acupuncture group reported a 15% decrease in medication usage, a 25% decrease in doctor’s visits and a 15% decrease in sick days.
Simple Remedies for Tension Headaches: Tension headaches are a result of contracted neck and shoulder muscles. The National Institute of Health recommends these methods for management of tension headaches:
- Hot or cold showers (depending on what works for you)
- Lying in a quiet room with a cool cloth over your head
- OTC pain medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Avoid overuse of pain medication, which can result in rebound headaches
To Prevent Tension Headaches
- Get more sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Have an eye exam and wear glasses if needed
- Work on your posture and stretching
Bust Chronic Stress and Say Goodbye To Headaches: In a study conducted with nurses in Thailand, nearly 50% of nurses reported episodic headaches in the past year. These headaches were associated with stress and were primarily classified as tension headaches and migraines. Yet another reason why stress management should be a main priority. Taking part in regular self-care can help.
Some Scrubbed In Stress Remedies
- Try a new hobby
- Improve your diet
- Spend some time with a furry friend
- Practice yoga
- Get better quality sleep
If stress is getting the better of you, despite your ardent efforts, don’t hesitate to talk with a professional who can help you develop tools to decrease your chronic stress levels.
Do you suffer from headaches? What works for you?