06 December 2005

Headache? Relax and take a deep breath

Stress is one of the major factors that trigger headaches and migraines. Some simple relaxation techniques may help to alleviate pain.

Stress is one of the most common headache and migraine triggers. Some simple relaxation techniques may help to alleviate pain.

Tension or stress-related headaches are a product of muscle tension, particularly in the neck and jaw. People may experience a tightening in the head, neck and skull muscles.

“Patients who feel the onset of an attack should immediately remove themselves from the triggers and situations that seem to be triggering their headaches or migraines, and take some time out to relax,” says Dr Elliot Shevel, Maxillo-Facial and Oral Surgeon, and medical director at The Headache Clinic.

Taking a hot bath with a few drops of lavender oil in the water, sipping camomile tea or doing some simple breathing exercises or meditation may alleviate the pain. Even simply lying down in a room with dim lighting and one’s eyes closed can be enormously helpful.

When to seek help
It is time to seek professional help when headaches are frequent or if they are severe enough to undermine one’s functioning at home or productivity at work or to stop one from going to work or participating in other activities. Relying on prescription medicines can be counter-productive as medications often cause or aggravate headaches when overused.

A multidisciplinary investigation into the cause of the headache that covers all the physical structures that cause the pain as well as conditions associated with headaches (such as depression) is the approach most likely to ensure effective prevention of further headaches. A range of therapies is available once the type and cause of a headache is diagnosed.

"Headaches are biological disorders that are often neurological, vascular or muscular in origin. An effective treatment regime will focus on treating the underlying cause of the pain rather than its symptoms," says Shevel.

“Stress is a part of life that cannot always be avoided, so headache and migraine sufferers should try to get at the root of their problem rather than allowing their condition to undermine their day-to-day functioning and quality of life.”

- Information supplied by the Headache Clinic.

Related articles:
Part I: Festive season rush triggers headaches
Part II: Holiday time, headache time
Part III: Managing summer headache risks


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