No big surprise! More stress = more headaches!

It’s well documented fact that stress can be harmful to our physical as well as emotional and psychological health! Now a new study claims it can play a huge role in setting off a headache.

The study found individuals who suffer from a frequent pounding, throbbing ache inside the head are more prone to the effects of stress. According to experts, the higher the levels of strain, the more time he or she will spend in pain.

Lead author of the study Dr. Sara H. Schramm, from the University Hospital of University Duisburg-Essen in Germany, stated, “These results show that this is a problem for everyone who suffers from headaches and emphasize the importance of stress management approaches for people with migraine and those who treat them. The results add weight to the concept that stress can be a factor contributing to the onset of headache disorders, that it accelerates the progression to chronic headache, exacerbates headache episodes, and that the headache experience itself can serve as a stressor.”

Study involving 5,159 adults

In order to determine whether people who have frequent headaches have more stressful lives, the researchers conducted a study involving 5,159 adults in the age bracket of 21 to 71 years. For the purpose of the study, the subjects furnished details about their headache history and other health factors once every three months from 2010 to 2012. In addition, they were asked to rate the intensity of their stress on a 100-point scale.

The researchers found, about 30 percent of the respondents experienced tension headaches (the most common type), which lasted for an average of 2.2 days per month. On a stress scale, these individuals scored an average of 52 out of 100.

Also 14 percent of the study subjects suffered from migraines which on an average lasted for a total of about 4.5 days a month. They recorded a 62 on the stress scale. An unfortunate 11 percent people had both a migraine and tension-type headache, which lasted about 3.6 days on average. Their stress intensity was 59 points.

Revelations of the study

The analysis found a clear connection between stress and frequency of headaches experienced each month. It was noted that for a 10-point increase on the stress scale, the duration of tension headaches rose by 6.3 percent per month (about 3.3 hours extra more each month). In contrast, migraine sufferers had a 4.3 percent increase in incidents (about 4.6 extra headache hours per month) while those experiencing a combination of migraines and tension headaches had a 4 percent increase in duration of their headaches (3.5 hours per month).

Dr. Souhel Najjar, director of the Neuroscience Center at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, who was not part of the study stated, “This finding is important and suggests that identifying sources of chronic stress, and utilizing strategies directed toward elimination or modification of stress, including meditation, deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques, can be very effective in reducing the frequency of all types of headaches, particularly tension headaches.”

The study sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Philadelphia.

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