Around the world, about 3.8 billion people suffer from recurring headaches1. It’s one of the most common conditions plaguing people on this earth, with migraines, in particular, affecting people from as early as their teens and peaking in severity in their 30’s and 40’s. And it’s about more than just pain. The material loss from headaches is just as significant. Billions of dollars are lost each year due to people having to call out of work because of suffering from headaches. An understanding of the causes of headaches is helpful if you are looking for headache relief or preventing this condition from starting.
Major Causes of Headaches
Stress and tension are two of the most prevalent causes of headaches. Even though stress is something that originates in the mind, it has a direct effect on the body. This is due to the psychosomatic connections between our minds and bodies. Things that occur in our thoughts can directly impact how we feel physically. One of the more common psychosomatic reactions can be observed when someone feels acute fear. The body starts to do several things all at once in reaction to the thought of fear. We tremble, the heart starts beating faster, we may sweat, pupils dilate, and our body temperature rises all because of the notion of fear. It’s the same with stress and headaches.
Thoughts about things that cause you anxiety will often create a headache. Also, the momentary stress felt during an intense situation can cause your head to hurt as well. The biggest headache contributor, however, is persistent, daily stress. One of the reasons this is such a problem is because the stress itself becomes a habit. The brain works by firing electrical signals across pathways consisting of dendrites. As electricity does in your home, these electrical signals like to take the path of least resistance. As they fire, the dendrites that carry the signal get stronger and bigger. The next time you have a thought, the dendrites along the path that lead you to feel stress have already been well-formed and the electrical signal flies right down that path of least resistance. This is how all habits are formed, both good and bad. Persistent stress is one such habit.
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Stress’ close relative, tension, causes headaches for slightly different reasons. A headache that arises because of tension is often more directly connected to another part of the body’s physical reaction to either thoughts or poor habits such as posture. The tension felt in the mind can affect the contraction of muscles in the back and neck. Because the muscles that control the head are so closely intertwined with those in the rest of the neck, muscular complications at the base or middle of the neck can result in sometimes severe headaches. The interconnection in the muscles of the neck and back can also cause headaches stemming from back problems.
Finding Headache Relief
For headache relief in stress-related instances, you will want to isolate the two causes: physical and mental. Sometimes the mental stressor can be completely gone, but a headache will remain because of how the neck and back react to the stress. In order to help with the effects on the neck and back, other steps should be taken.
Massage helps alleviate headaches stemming from neck and back issues by targeting the areas that are causing the discomfort. A professional masseuse can be helpful, but you or a partner can learn techniques that will allow you to have it done in the comfort of your home.
Peppermint oil can be applied with a carrier oil to the neck to help relieve tension that may be contributing to headaches as well2. Additionally, oils such as lavender and chamomile can help to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety, which may help to prevent stress headaches before they arrive.3,4
You can also try MONQ’s Relieve blend, scientifically crafted to ease your aches and pains, from head to toe with essential oils such as ginger, helichrysum, and spikenard.
Adjusting Your Posture
This can have a significant effect on neck and back issues as well. When we sit in the wrong position—slumped or hunched over—muscles in the neck and back are stretched abnormally. This contortion often results in headaches. Fixing your posture by getting a more ergonomic chair or even by obtaining a stand-up workstation can help with posture issues. Taking breaks, going for walks, and stretching can also significantly improve how you feel.
Exercise is one of the best ways to find headache relief caused by tension, anxiety, and stress. Not only does exercise release endorphins that make you feel better, but it is also a great solution for poor posture. You can directly address tension headaches caused by poor posture by sitting properly until it starts to feel uncomfortable. The lack of comfort stems from areas of your body that are weak. As you feel the weakness, these areas can become your personal strengthening “projects.”
In addition, exercises like running, walking and sports where you spend most of the time upright can make a big difference in reducing headaches caused by muscular tension. As you go for a run, for instance, your core is strengthened, reducing the strain on your back and neck.
There’s nothing like a headache to ruin your mood, productivity, and health. Getting to the root of your headache problems and finding relief in natural remedies, or even in adjusting your behaviors, can go a long way in making sure a headache doesn’t slow you down anymore.
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