Why does stress give you a headache?

My mom complains of backache whenever she gets stressed. For me, I find it hard to breathe. I later realized that I hold my body so tight when I get stressed that I find respiring difficult. For some, headache due to stress is common.

Robert Sapolsky talks about this aspect in his book “Why Zebras don’t get ulcers”. While the connection between stress and physiology has been widely researched, recent studies are starting to reveal some hidden connections between emotions and body pains.

When we consistently suppress certain kinds of emotions, they are not going away. They become part of our physiology by getting etched into our muscles. Recently, research has found that when we don’t explore our emotions and push them deep down, they convert into rigid patterns that get etched into our muscles. These patterns are called character skeletons.

While we don’t know yet if such character skeletons have any impact on our overall mood, they have been found to give rise to physiological pains.

Whenever we think of mental patterns, we think of them as ridges in our brains. There is this common-sense assumption that our experiences somehow magically convert into this framework in our head that guides us. But this cannot happen without the body being involved. In fact, we absorb energy all across our body and the resultant effect is everywhere — in our faces, hands, knee joints, shoulders, back of the neck.

Absorbing emotions without exploring them is like gulping a hamburger without chewing. You might be able to push them in, but you can not get rid of what it may do to your internals!