Stopping stress headaches
Written by: Galina Pembroke
According to the International Headache
Foundation, 60% of people worldwide will experience a tension
headache at least once this year. The successful businessperson
is more likely than most to be included in this large number.
By discovering why, we are on our way to stopping the discomfort.
Enjoy a can of
Coca-Cola was originally marketed as more than a
delicious thirst quencher. An 1893 advertising slogan
for the popular beverage read "For headache
and exhaustion drink Coca-Cola." Though this
claim sounds puzzling, it has its roots in truth.
The caffeine in Coca-Cola constricts the head's blood
vessels, which is a useful pain-reliever.
Source: World Headache Alliance
HOW ARE YOU sitting right now? This may seem irrelevant, but posture
influences the frequency of headaches, particularly the tension-type.
Whether at conferences or in front of the computer, we spend much
of our day in a chair. If our chair is positioned properly, we
should be able to press our back into it during our activities.
This will allow us to have our feet squarely on the floor and our
head squarely over our shoulders. When we sit this way, we reduce
the physical tightness that can lead to tension headaches. However,
this is not the way many of us sit. Also, even if we are posture-perfect,
there are still more hidden headache-faults that we need to correct.
For example, the eyestrain that results from an outdated eyeglass
prescription is enough to trigger tension headaches in some people.
When our eyes work overtime, so do our head muscles. This can cause
or worsen the tension headache. Since much business activity involves
minute visual analysis, updating your prescription may be enough
to reduce these eyestrain-related headaches.
Perhaps not surprisingly for some, stress is the leading cause
of tension headaches. As a busy professional with many obligations,
it is more efficient to take a painkiller than to slow down or
take time out to relax. However, a peaceful pause is a primary
way to ease headache pain. According to Prevention Magazine: "Some
research suggests that stopping to relax - even for five minutes
- at the first sign of trouble may be enough to abort a headache
in some people." Unfortunately, too few take advantage of
this simple, yet effective technique. Instead, at the first sign
of a headache, most of us unknowingly worsen it by rushing to get
as much done as possible before our headache worsens. Alvin Lake,
Ph.D., associate director of the head-pain treatment unit in Michigan,
U.S.A. states: "That's like stepping on the gas in your car
when the gas tank is empty. It's much better to slow down and get
quieter as the headache begins to intensify."
Photo: allphoto images |
Should we replace medication with meditation? Not necessarily.
Instead, a combination of stress-management and painkillers may
be one's best bet. Prevention Magazine published research which
shows that combined, these methods are more effective than either
one alone. Reliance on painkillers can create serious side effects.
Lifetime usage of 5,000 or more analgesic tablets quadruples the
risk of kidney failure. This is true for all the over-the-counter
painkillers, except for aspirin, which has its own short-term drawbacks.
The International Headache Society reports: "Daily doses of
as little as three aspirin or acetaminophen a day can cause drug
rebound headaches, which can be severe and disabling." Those
with daily headaches should seek a physician's assistance immediately.
This reduces the risk of becoming addicted to analgesics.
For those do-it-yourself types, America's National Headache Foundation
recommends the following methods to lessen headache pain in only
- Diaphragmatic/Abdominal breathing is their top technique for
shrinking stress. Why? When we breathe from our belly our lungs
expand more. This lowers blood pressure and slows heart rate.
- Applying a hot or cold ice pack to neck and shoulders. Alternatively,
a neck and shoulder massage.
- Guided imagery heals by combining deep relaxation with your
imagination and senses. Unlike visualization, which is also an
effective headache-healer, guided imagery usually requires the
help of a counselor.
- Close your eyes and repeat words that you find soothing. This
can be anything from "peace" or "relax" to "family" or "tax-free".