If You’ve Been Dealing with Painful, Stress-Related Headaches Physical Therapy Can Help!
People who experience stress or tension headaches often describe the pain as a dullness, tightness, or a feeling of pressure around the forehead and neck. If this type of discomfort, often described as a clamp squeezing the skull sounds familiar, keep reading.
While reducing your stress level can often reduce the severity of your stress-related headaches, achieving that can be easier said than done.
Call our office today to learn how a physical therapist could be the key to permanently reducing your stress-related headaches.
What can physical therapy offer me?
If you have been living with chronic stress headaches (more than 15 per month) or are simply tired of relying on non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for tension headaches, physical therapy can address the underlying structural cause and lead to a long-lasting solution.
Seeing a physical therapist for a specific condition without having a surgical recovery plan can feel unusual at first. However, physical therapists can treat all movement and posture problems, not only those that arise after surgery.
A physical therapist will first assess your posture, strength, and range of motion. They may also examine your workspace to see if your headaches are caused by poor posture during the day. They’ll then teach you a series of stretches that encourage the body to restore itself to its natural position.
Next, they may prescribe you a set of strengthening exercises to complete on your own that target the muscles in your stomach, back, shoulders, and hips. Focusing on these areas ensures that you can position your body properly as you work.
Finally, they will teach you pain-relieving techniques that you can perform independently whenever you experience tension headaches. Ice and heat therapies, massage, and stretching/movements are all examples of potential treatments.
Why do I have tension headaches?
While most headaches have no clear cause, stress-related headaches are usually brought on by a single stressful event or a buildup of tension throughout the day.
As a result, tension headaches frequently occur around mid-day, after stress levels have already risen. This timing indicates that the problem is not the stressful event itself, but rather the way our body is positioned as we experience it.
Factors that contribute to poor body positioning and the consequent stress headaches that occur include poor posture, drawing your shoulders toward your ears, tense muscles in your back and neck, and fatigue.
Stress-related headaches vary widely in severity, though they are usually not as debilitating as migraines. Instead, tension headaches tend to feel like a generalized ache over a broad region of the head. If you are experiencing a painful, prolonged throbbing in a specific area of the head, like the eye, you may be experiencing a different condition called a cluster headache.
The tension that causes stress headaches can be the result of mental/emotional stress (if that emotional stress causes persistent neck tightness), or aspects including:
- “Text neck,” a strain disorder that occurs with the continuous forward drooping of your head, seen with excessive smartphone usage
- Weak neck muscles that become fatigued easily
- Repetitive motion or overuse from work or sports activities
- Secondary pain problems such as arthritis in the cervical spine
Stress-related headaches that persist for more than 15 days out of the month for at least 3 months are considered a chronic pain condition.
What exactly are stress-related headaches?
Stress-related/tension headaches are characterized by a dull ache or pressure in your forehead or in the back of your neck or head.
Tension headaches can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 7 days and are the most common type of headache experienced by adults. They often begin in the back of your head and can spread forward as they go on.
Relief from tension headaches is in your sight
Strategies for treating stress-related headaches in physical therapy include:
- Postural and ergonomic advice to help you get rid of any bad habits that might be causing “text neck”
- Exercises to strengthen your neck muscles, allowing them to hold the weight of your head more evenly and with less strain
- Heat and ice therapies, flexibility exercises, and manual therapy
- Stress reduction measures include yoga, lifestyle changes, and the creation of a plan to reduce common stress triggers in your life.
If you have been waiting for the day when stress-related headaches no longer derail your life, call our PT office today to make an appointment. Start feeling better with us.