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What's Going on When We Have a Headache Anyway?

woman with a headache
(Image: Getty Images)

The holidays can already be a tense time, but this year we’ve also got the extra-special stress of a pandemic to factor in. So, let’s take a moment to chat about something that many folks may experience this week, the holiday headache. What's going on when we have a headache anyway?

This time of year comes with a lot of joy, celebration, and the tense lead up to all those "perfect" holiday moments. No wonder folks get holiday headaches! Okay, so, there’s no such thing as a “holiday headache” per say, but there are lots of different types of headaches. 

The bounty of pains one’s head can experience include things like hormonal headaches, migraines, sinus headaches, and even more serious ones like thunderclap or ice pick headaches - the ones with powerful sharp shooting pains - those require a visit to the doctor as they could indicate more serious conditions. 

One of the more common headaches that many people experience is the tension headache. First of all when you get a headache, perhaps the first natural thought is that the brain is physically hurting. Well, that’s not the case, the brain itself has no nerve endings and can’t feel pain. You can watch videos online where people are having brain surgery performed on them while awake. You can’t numb the brain because, well, we need it working 24/7, folks!

The tension headache that you feel is actually a result of all the muscles in your head that have been clenched and tight from your stressful experience. Clenched jaws, blood pressure changes, tightened eyebrows, and exhausted muscles throughout your head can get sore after stressful occasions. Once that pain is ultimately processed through your brain you’ll feel like you have a headache, even though it has nothing to do with your physical brain itself. Massaging jaw muscles is often suggested for folks who can feel a tension headache coming on.

As always, being well rested is vital for your body’s blood pressure, keeping cells functioning at peak efficiency, and helping regulate your body temperature. All of this helps lessen the tension your body experiences. So try not to stay up too late waiting for Santa or Zooming with your family! Properly hydrating does that as well and can help reduce a different kind of holiday headache, the hangover, but hey that’s a different story all together! 

Alright science fans, enough headache-science for the moment. Now, time to get back to holiday ongoings here. It’s certainly a weird year year, but none the less, from all of us to all of you, happy - headache free, hopefully - holidays!

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