headache and neck pain

Stress headaches and neck pain often go hand in hand.  The muscles of the neck are connected to the muscles of the head and, when you are experiencing stress, this tenses the muscles of the scalp and around the neck so that you have pain in the neck, in the area of the temples, and sometimes down your back.

There are several ways to deal with stress headaches and neck pain.  These include the following:

5 Ways to Ease Stress Headaches and Neck Pain


1. Decrease the Stress in Your Life

If you are experiencing stressful life circumstances such as relationship stressors, financial difficulties, work stressors, and other kinds of stress, you need to do what you can to remove these stressors from your life.  This will decrease the tension in the neck and reduce the number of headaches you experience.  Stress is the number one cause of stress headaches and neck pain and you need to feel more in control of your life in order to have a lesser degree of head and neck pain.

2. Use a Pillow for the Neck

They make special pillows that are designed to decrease the pain in the neck and head.  Some people use memory foam pillows while others use specially designed pillows that better cradle your head and neck as you sleep.  This eliminates the amount of pain you experience upon getting out of bed in the morning so that you can go about your activities of daily living without pain.

3. Use Pain Relievers

Stress headaches and neck pain can be relieved by a couple of different pain relievers. Acetaminophen is especially good for headaches but does nothing for inflammation. Ibuprofen (marketed as Motrin and Advil) and naproxen sodium (marketed as Naprosyn and Aleve) can both treat the pain of the neck and head pain but can reduce the amount of inflammation in the joints and muscles.

Always consult your doctor before taking any medication.

4. Muscle Relaxers

Your doctor can prescribe muscle relaxers that take the tension out of the muscles so the pain can be resolved.  These medications can be sedating so you shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery until you know how the muscle relaxer affects you.  Common muscle relaxers include Soma and Robaxin.  They can be taken along with anti-inflammatory medication for better pain relief.

5. Ice and/or Heat

You can use ice packs to the neck or to the head area to relieve inflammation and to decrease pain.  Ice packs can be commercial ice packs, bags of ice you make yourself, or even a package of frozen vegetables as ice packs.  These are applied for 30 minutes at a time to the affected area of the body with a towel or cloth used to keep the skin from developing frostbite.

Ice can be alternated with heating pads that take out the spasm in the muscles of the neck and head.  Heating pads are directed at spasm relief and can increase the range of motion about the neck.  Heat is often used 48 hours after an injury to the neck or when spasm is a big part of the problem.