There’s been an increase in the incidence of stress headaches, no matter whether you’re a caregiver, someone who’s lost a job or a loved one, a parent juggling virtual school and a job, or dealing with loneliness and pandemic stress.
If you’re concerned that your headache may be a symptom of COVID-19, Dr. Emad Estemalik, director of the headache section at the Cleveland Clinic, said that although respiratory viruses often involve headaches, if a headache is your only symptom, it’s unlikely that it is related to COVID-19. https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/having-more-headaches-during-the-pandemic-its-not-just-you
On the other hand, “If you suddenly are short of breath or you have a fever out of the blue and you have an excruciating headache, that’s a different story,” he said.
What is a tension headache?
Tension headaches are typically caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck. They can be mild, moderate, or intense pain that you may feel in your head and neck or behind your eyes. Often they feel like a tight band around your head. They can be chronic or episodic, once or twice a month. Women are twice as likely as men to have tension headaches, and according to the Cleveland Clinic, chronic headaches affect approximately three percent of people in the U.S and can last more than 15 days a month.
Common causes of headache
- Allergies and certain foods including MSG, artificial sweeteners, aged cheese, cured meats, salty foods, chocolate, pickled and fermented foods, frozen foods (i.e brain freeze)
- Alcohol, caffeine, smoking
- Depression, stress and anxiety
- Eye strain and dry eyes
- Emotional stress
- Peri-menopause and pre-menstrual hormone fluctuations
- Lack of sleep
- Poor posture, especially looking down at our devices and at our computers for long stretches of time.
- Cold, flu, or sinus infections
- Vertebrae misalignment, especially of the atlas and axis
- Over exercising
- Hunger, not eating enough or on time
- Air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, particulate matters from wildfires, and benzene from fracking
- Change in the weather
Ways to prevent and ease a tension headache
According to the National center for Complementary and Integrative Health, these supplements may help prevent tension headaches:
- Coenzyme CoQ10
- Vitamin B-12 (riboflavin)
Yoga postures help by increasing circulation to your head. Remember to breathe. For more information about deep breathing as a stress reliever, including two easy breathing exercises, visit: “Support your lungs with deep breathing exercises” https://barbracohn.com/2020/03/26/support-your-lungs-with-deep-breathing-exercises/
- Child’s pose https://www.yogajournal.com/poses/child-s-pose/
- Forward Fold https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/yoga-sequences/forward-bends/
- Supine Twist https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/reclining-twist/
- Legs up the Wall https://www.yogajournal.com/how-to/legs-up-the-wall-pose/ Supine Chest and Stretch
- Shavasana (Corpse pose) https://www.yogajournal.com/how-to/corpse-pose/
More ways to ease a tension headache
- Dab some lavender essential oil on your temples. Some people report instant relief.
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water each day.
- Get plenty of sleep. If you have trouble sleeping read this: https://barbracohn.com/2017/10/25/16-ways-to-sleep-better-so-you-can-be-a-better-caregiver/
- Exercise regularly and walk outside in fresh air.
- Get an air purifier to clean the air in your house.
- Set boundaries for yourself. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
- Support your emotional well being. Avoid movies that elevate cortisol (stress hormone), avoid family arguments, engage socially on facetime or zoom to avoid loneliness. Take a walk with a neighbor with masks on, etc.
- Get a massage or chiropractic adjustment.
- Do something soothing for yourself at least once a day. Listen to some classical, religious or meditative music to uplift your spirit. Take an Epsom salt bath with lavender aromatherapy oil. Take time out to read a book. Keep a gratitude journal. Get a dog or cat.
Please make a telehealth appointment with your doctor if your headaches continue and to rule out other illness.
Barbra Cohn cared for her husband Morris for 10 years. He passed away from younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Afterward, she was compelled to write “Calmer Waters: The Caregiver’s Journey Through Alzheimer’s & Dementia”–winner of the 2018 Book Excellence Award in self-help– in order to help other caregivers feel healthier and happier, have more energy, sleep better, feel more confident, deal with feelings of guilt and grief, and to ultimately experience inner peace. “Calmer Waters” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Boulder Book Store, Tattered Cover Book Store, Indie Bound.org, and online at Target and Walmart, and many other fine independent bookstores, as well as public libraries.