The clock in your office reads 3:30 p.m. Only 30 minutes until the end of the workday. You’ve been stressed all week due to the reoccurring problems with your spouse. And the fear of being laid off had you working through your lunch, in order to complete that huge report for your boss.
Now your body is paying for it.
The stabbing pain in your head and stomach seem to be plotting against you, as the tension increases by the second. Your mind races as you try to focus on something else. Anything would suffice. But nothing seems to be working. You check the clock again: 3:31.
You pop the last few Aspirin you have at your desk, hoping they kick in soon. You grab your head as you try massaging the pain away. Doesn’t take. Your head feels like it’s on the verge of exploding ⎯ the feeling of tiny knives slicing through your every thought. You can’t take it ⎯ it’s just too much.
Small beads of sweat trickle down your face, as you scan the office ⎯ your coworkers happy and hard at work. You can’t bear to be there another second. You make a snap decision ⎯ as you quickly clock out, grab your things and race out of the office.
Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults, and are commonly referred to as stress headaches. They can appear periodically ⎯ less than 15 days a month, or become daily occurrences known as chronic headaches.
According to WebMD, 30-80 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from occasional tension headaches, and approximately 3 percent suffer from chronic headaches. Women are twice as likely to suffer from tension-type headaches than men.
There is no single cause for tension headaches. Every person is different, which means the triggering of the occurrence can’t be pinpointed to one specific issue. In some people, the tightening of the neck and back muscles can trigger a headache. These issues can be linked to inadequate rest, poor posture, anxiety, hunger, and emotional and mental stress.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests a few ways to help alleviate and prevent tension headaches:
- Get enough sleep
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Use relaxation techniques
As with any type of medication, prescribed or not, always follow the recommended daily dosage. Abusing certain medications can cause stomach upset and bleeding, raise the risk of heart problems and cause severe liver damage.
Certain foods have also been known to trigger headaches:
- Peanut Butter
- Some fruits, like avocado, banana and citrus
The ultimate goal is to treat your tension headaches right away, and to prevent them by avoiding or changing your triggers. MayoClinic recommends keeping a stress journal, which documents the date of the occurrence, the length it lasted and the possible triggers behind it.
Finding a pattern to your tension headaches is the best way to help prevent future occurrences.