What Is Relaxation Training for Chronic Headaches?

Jun 02, 2023
What Is Relaxation Training for Chronic Headaches?
Is it true that relaxing can reduce headache frequency? Puttering in the garden, taking an afternoon nap, or lounging on the couch after a stressful day can stop a headache? Maybe, but that’s not exactly what relaxation training involves.

Chronic headaches can be debilitating, affecting every aspect of your life. It’s one of the reasons neurologist Dr. Wade Steeves at Valley Neurology in Spokane Valley, Washington, focuses 100% of his medical expertise on diagnosing and relieving chronic headaches.

Dr. Steeves combines the latest advances in medical management with commonsense approaches like identifying your headache triggers to help you avoid them. Relaxation training is one of many tools available to help you overcome the challenge of chronic headaches.

Here’s what the Headache Guy, Dr. Steeves, says about relaxation training and how to incorporate it into your life.

What’s relaxation training?

Relaxation training for chronic headaches aims to reduce headache frequency, intensity, and duration by promoting focused relaxation and stress reduction.

It involves learning and practicing relaxation techniques to manage and prevent headaches. The goal is to achieve a state of relaxation within a few minutes by incorporating deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and other techniques known to calm your body’s stress response to daily life.

How does reducing stress relieve headaches?

Destressing won’t “cure” your chronic headaches. However, when combined with other therapies, it can do much to reduce headache frequency and intensity by slowing your stress response.

When you’re stressed, your sympathetic nervous system perceives whatever is causing the tension as a dangerous situation. Hectic workdays, traffic jams, and even the pleasant unpredictability of life can induce stress.

Your brain responds by releasing adrenaline, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, constricting blood vessels, and contracting muscles. 

That response is all part of the “fight or flight” action your body undertakes to help protect you from harm. Unfortunately, these actions are also common triggers for headaches.

It takes training and daily practice, but you can calm your body’s natural stress response through relaxation techniques.

Which relaxation techniques can help reduce chronic headaches?

Common relaxation techniques for controlling headaches include:

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR)

PMR involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups to release tension and promote overall relaxation.

Deep breathing

Deep breathing exercises help slow your breathing, reducing muscle tension and promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation.

Visualization and guided imagery

This technique involves creating vivid mental images of peaceful and calming scenes, allowing your mind to escape stress and tension.

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment, accepting it without judgment, and cultivating relaxed awareness. It helps you become more aware of bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions without reacting.

Stress management

Learning and practicing stress management techniques such as time management, problem-solving, assertiveness training, and effective communication can help reduce stress and prevent headache triggers.

Yoga and stretching

Yoga and stretching exercises alleviate muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. Incorporating gentle yoga poses and stretches into your daily routine can relieve stress in your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

You don’t have to live with chronic headaches. Instead, schedule an evaluation with Dr. Steeves at Valley Neurology today for more information about treatments that work. Call the office or request an evaluation online.