Headaches: Reduce stress to prevent the pain

Stress can make your head hurt — and a headache can really stress you out. Either way, to reduce the pain, rein in the stress. By Mayo Clinic Staff

You're late. You can't find your keys. You're not prepared for your breakfast meeting. And the dog just tracked mud through the living room. No wonder you have a headache.

Headaches are more likely to occur when you're stressed. In fact, stress is the most common headache trigger. But you don't need to give stress the upper hand. Take simple steps to manage your stress and help keep your headaches at bay.

The daily grind

The stress of a major life event — the birth of a baby, the death of a loved one, a career change, a divorce — is undeniable. But it's not necessarily this type of stress that triggers headaches. Instead, it's often the everyday irritants — searching for lost papers, sitting in traffic, tolerating petty annoyances at work — that may erode your ability to cope. For some people, this triggers headaches.

If you tense your muscles, grind your teeth or stiffen your shoulders in response to stress, you may only make your headaches worse.

Aug. 01, 2012 See more In-depth