You may have heard it said that a little bit of stress is good for us. It keeps us alert, awake and can give us a burst of adrenaline energy.
But what happens when we have too much stress in our lives? Could too much stress be a concern or a cause for some of our health problems, but what I really want to know, in particular, is can stress cause migraine headaches?
What is Stress and How Does It Affect Us?
Stress is defined in the dictionary as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.
Have you ever heard someone say “… they are under a lot of stress” before. This is a comment usually made when we notice someone who doesn’t seem to be coping with everyday life. Their personality and usual behaviour can change dramatically and they can become angry, moody, disconnected and even depressed.
It might be many little problems or a few really big problems they are encountering within their life, but these stresses can build up and really have a significant impact on a persons health and ability to cope with further stresse.
Where Does Stress Come From?
We encounter many different stresses in our daily lives. Some of these stresses within our environment may come from our work situation, finances, moving home, relationships, children and family, health, and many other daily life things.
But how we deal with these stresses are really important. Every person has a different threshold when it comes to stress. What has an effect on one person may not necessarily affect another person. Some people have a capacity for handling large amounts of stress and others do not.
When we encounter too much stress how does this stress overload affect our bodies and hormones levels? Can this be a contributing cause to the onset of a migraine headache?
Is Stress Causing My Headaches and Migraines
Stress can be a cause of headaches and Migraines. When you become stressed it can cause a headache to intensify and it could definitely cause an awful painful headache or turn into a full-blown stress-induced migraine headache, especially if you are a person who regularly suffers from migraine headaches.
Stress also has some symptoms that are very similar to the symptoms of a migraine headache, like nausea, concentration difficulty, muscle tension, sleeping problems and tiredness.
Symptoms of High Stress:
- Frequent headaches
- Feelings of nausea and stomach aches
- Feeling generally unwell
- Tension in the muscles (particularly head, neck and shoulder area)
- Insomnia or other sleeping problems
- Feelings of being overwhelmed and overloaded
- Excessive fatigue and tiredness
- Frequent illness, and cold sores due to compromised immune system
- Feelings of anxiety, worry and panic
- Chest pains, heartburn, rapid pulse, high blood pressure
- Teeth clenching and grinding
- Frequent and unexplained mood swings
- Dramatic changes in appetite and body weight
As you can see from this list above, headaches can form part of the stress symptoms and if you are a person who is likely to suffer from Migraines, these situations of stress-induced symptoms can easily be associated with a migraine headache.
Symptoms of a Migraine Headache:
- Feeling overly tired and irritable
- A dull consistent head pain
- Throbbing pain in one area of the head
- Stiff, tight feeling in the shoulders, neck or face
- Blocked and sensitive sinuses
- A pain at the back of the eyes
- Eyes can feel very sensitive to light
- Vision is blotchy, sometimes with flashes of light
- Sensitivity to a lot of sounds
- Dizziness and sometimes vertigo
- Feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting
Stress-Induced Migraine Headaches – Hormones and Headaches!
There have been numerous studies done on migraine headaches, and there is still so much yet to be learned.
There are many different triggers that can be the cause of stress-induced migraine headaches. People who suffer from stress-migraines may need to look at ways in which to reduce their stress levels so that they can reduce the occurrences of their migraines.
Its thought that approximately 10% of people may suffer from migraines at one time or another. A migraine is generally caused by chemicals in the brain that narrow the blood vessels.
When we have feelings of stress the body releases “stress hormones” into the body and the brain. These hormones were initially part of our survival instincts, so we could react quickly to any kind of threatening situation. Unfortunately, these stress hormones continuously being released over a long-term period of time, due to continual stresses, can have some negative health effects. One of these health issues is headaches and migraine headaches.
There are three main hormones that are released during times of stress. These are Adrenaline, Cortisol and Norepinephrine.
Cortisol has the nickname of “the stress hormone” and it is released by the adrenaline gland. Norepinephrine helps blood go to the areas you need it for survival in a threatening situation and takes blood away from the less vital areas. Adrenaline (Epinephrine) also know as the “fight or flight” hormone is released into the bloodstream and increases a persons heart rate, which can cause high blood pressure.
Migraine headaches are more likely to occur after the body’s stress response has already occurred. When these stress hormone levels are dropping back down again and the response can sometimes be a migraine headache due to the changing hormone levels.
Reducing Stress and Occurrences of Stress-Induced Migraine headaches?
- Eating healthier (avoiding fatty foods and food high in sugar)
- Avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol, and smoking cigarettes (nicotine).
- Exercise regularly during stressful times (releases tension in the muscles)
- Meditation and yoga (relaxes the mind and exercises the body)
- Try and get more rest and sleep at night. (Magnesium can help get better sleep and reduce stress)
- If your feeling overloaded make sure you don’t take on more responsibility (Learn to say “NO”)
- Relaxation time away from the stress environment
- Meditation and Deep Breathing (helps relax muscles and feelings of stress)
- Talk to Someone is something is affecting us (have you heard the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved”)
Some Vitamins and Minerals Can Help Us Cope With Stress
Sometimes stress cannot be avoided. Our bodies need extra care while we are coping with these difficult times in our lives. Some vitamins are known to help us cope better with the stress and this can also help us reduce the occurrences of those stress-related migraines.
- Vitamin B complex
Everyone handles stress differently. Some people can cope with and handle fairly high levels of stress, while others cannot. Unfortunately over a long period of time and if the high levels of stress continue, it can become increasingly unhealthy.
I know that when I need a break I try to get out for a walk at the beach or park. Some timeout to meditate and relax my thoughts and just slow down this busy lifestyle we have all come accustomed to living.
Safety First! If you have a Medical Condition, are taking any Medications, are Pregnant or Breastfeeding, please remember that you should always consult with your doctor prior to taking any supplements or using any herbal or natural remedies of any kind. Some herbal or dietary supplements could interfere or react with other medications.