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No Brainer? More Stress Linked to More Headaches

Update Date: Feb 19, 2014 04:51 PM EST

Headaches may be a sign of stress, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people who experience more stress are more likely to have more headaches.

The latest study involved 5,159 people between 21 to 71 years old. Participants were surveyed about their stress levels and headaches four times a year for two years. Participants were asked to state the number of headaches they had a month and rate their stress level of a scale of zero to 100.

The findings revealed that 31 percent of participants had tension-type headaches, 14 percent had migraine and 11 percent had migraine combined with tension-type headache and for 17 percent the headache type was not classified.

People who suffered tension type headache rated their stress at an average of 52, people with migraine rated their stress as 62, and those with migraine and tension-type headache rated their stress as 59 out of 100.

The findings also revealed that an increase in stress was associated with an increase in the number of headaches per month for each type of headache.

The findings showed an increase of 10 points on the stress scale for every 6.3 percent increase in the number of tension headaches per month. The number of migraine headache days per month increased by 4.3 percent and 4 percent for those with migraine and tension headaches for every increase of 10 points of the stress scale.

"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," study author Dr. Sara H. Schramm of University Hospital of University Duisburg-Essen in Germany, said in a news release. "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."

The study will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 66th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, April 26 to May 3.

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