The Headache & Stress Connection

Simple life hacks may provide much-needed relief.

Disclosure:: This post is sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center and authored by Dr. Douglas Clement.

The Headache & Stress Connection

News, social media, personal conversations – the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic seems to be taking over all aspects of life. You may also have noticed you’re getting headaches or getting them more often. It’s not all in your head. In fact, the two very well may be directly related.

Constant bombardment of information on the coronavirus may be causing undue stress, anxiety and tension – all likely contributing to headaches, especially for those who suffer from frequent migraines. Additional likely triggers include:

  • Relationships
  • Caring for elderly parents
  • Health concerns
  • Work
  • Financial stressors
  • Insomnia or lack of sleep
  • Drastic changes in routine such as having a baby, a new job, or a new home
  • Work/life balance issues
  • Vacation or travel

Even frequent headaches can cause stress resulting in more headaches. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that 10 percent of people worldwide suffer from migraines. As if the stress from COVID-19 weren’t enough, many patients are unable to schedule visits with their doctor because of social distancing requirements.

Sometimes, if you experience a stressful situation or receive troubling news, a headache may occur the same day, but migraines may result up to three days later. Record the frequency of headaches or migraines so you can share this with your doctor. Things to note include:

  • The likely cause
  • When the headache begins
  • Where is the pain
  • How long does it last
  • How did you receive relief
  • Any changes in diet or exercise
  • Work-related stress
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Sleep patterns in the days before the headache began

If you still have concerns, talk to your family doctor and ask if a neurology consult is right for you and your particular situation. Be honest. Let your family doctor know exactly what’s going on with you and your body.

Avoiding headaches may be as simple as eating healthy and reducing screen time. Other potentially helpful life hacks include:

  • Unplug from constant media coverage and social media. Even a one-day break could make a world of difference.
  • Take a 30-minute walk each day. If you notice your headaches come on after work, plan your walks then.
  • Try meditation. There are several free apps available to help guide you through the process to get started and into a regular routine.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night. Sleep at least eight hours a night. Turn off electronic devices at least an hour before you go to sleep – that includes your tablet, smart phone and television.
  • Talk to friends and family. Often the things causing stress and anxiety can be relieved by sharing you concerns and discovering you’re not alone.

There are several new very effective medications that have recently been approved for the treatment of migraine that have helped many patients by reducing both the frequency and severity of their migraines. Headaches and migraines also can be symptoms of a more serious health issue, so don’t self-diagnose. Talk to your doctor.

There is no point in suffering. Telemedicine, or virtual visits with a physician via a smart phone, tablet or computer, make it possible for established patients as well as new patients to receive an initial evaluation and treatment for migraines. Discuss your options with your family doctor or call a neurologist office directly. Many are accepting new patients without the primary care doctor referral requirement.

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About Dr. Jonathan Jones 

— Dr. Jonathan Jones, Neurologist, and several other physicians with Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center are offering telemedicine visits during the coronavirus quarantine. Learn more at LourdesRMC.com.