Therapy for Headaches
Does Living With Headaches Make You Feel Like You’re Missing Out On Life?
Are you dealing with headaches that pop up at the worst possible time? Do your headaches prevent you from being able to fully engage in life? Maybe you find yourself living in continual fear of pain. Even when you feel okay, perhaps you’re afraid that your headache will return. And when it does return, you probably spend all your time worrying that it will get worse.
Chronic tension headaches and migraines can lead to a vicious cycle of avoiding activities that trigger your pain. As a result, you may feel like you’re missing out on what’s important in life. Maybe you’re isolating and cancelling plans with friends and family for fear that getting out will cause your headache to flare up. Or you may be putting off applying for a new job or taking a new class for fear that your headache will get in the way. Over time, this pattern of avoidance can lead to loneliness and depression, which in turn can amplify your pain, causing the whole cycle to repeat itself indefinitely.
You may even experience a sense of shame because of your headaches. Perhaps you tell yourself: Everyone experiences headaches. How could something so trivial affect my life so much? Even your loved ones may tell you that you’re just being dramatic and that your pain is in your head.
Deep down, you probably wish there was someone in your life who would validate your pain instead of minimizing it or telling you to just pop a pill. If this is the case, then we would be honored to offer support. Therapy for headaches is a chance to get compassionate support from someone who knows that your pain is real and can equip you with practical skills for reducing you suffering.
Many People Think Chronic Headache Sufferers Are Faking Their Pain
Headaches and migraines are a worldwide issue. Roughly half of all adults in the world suffer from headaches annually and about 30 percent report dealing with migraines. For many people, however, headaches are not just episodic and short-lived—they disrupt every aspect of their lives.
Nonetheless, people with chronic headaches are often dismissed as malingerers and treated as if they are faking their pain. Others may tell them to just take a Tylenol and get over it. But for chronic headache sufferers, medication isn’t powerful enough to control their discomfort and no amount of mental toughness will make a difference.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that values being overworked and not getting enough sleep. Put simply, most of us have too much on our plates and don’t get enough rest, because our culture teaches us to ignore our body’s limitations in order to succeed. This constant cycle of sleep deprivation and chronic stress only perpetuates and exacerbates headaches.
Right now, you may feel angry and resentful at the limitations your pain has imposed on you. Thankfully, here at the Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback, we can help you work around your limitations and teach you how to respond to your headaches in a healthy and nurturing way.
Therapy Can Help You Reduce the Tension and Stress That Your Headaches Cause
The paradox of dealing with headaches is that the harder you try to control them, the worse the pain gets. How, then, is it possible to reduce the intensity of your headaches? Therapy is a chance to explore this question anew. Rather than focusing solely on pain relief, we want to help you interpret the sensations of pain differently, improve your sleep, reduce the anxiety and depression associated with it, and overcome the unhelpful reactions that make your headaches worse.
One of the main approaches we utilize in therapy for headaches is called biofeedback. The goal of biofeedback is to train your nervous system to regulate itself more effectively. There are two parts of your nervous system that biofeedback seeks to balance: the relaxation part and the stress-activation part. When you’re in pain, the stress-activation part does not have a way to shut itself off and the relaxation part is not strong enough to regulate it. Biofeedback can strengthen the relaxation part of the nervous system in regulating stress activation. It can also help you reduce physiological and emotional overactivation by teaching you skills to recognize and reduce muscle tension. With this approach, we will record what happens to your muscles when you perform daily activities. You will be able to see your muscular activity live on a computer screen, allowing you to recognize rising tension and reduce it before it triggers a headache.
Our practice also uses mindfulness training to help you respond to your pain without getting stuck in futile efforts to change what’s not changeable. Rather than trying to fight your pain, mindfulness will train your brain to interpret sensations of pain differently. This will allow you to move away from the fear that your headaches trigger. The goal is to break the cycle of pain in your life by reducing your fear and stopping the avoidant behaviors that keep you from engaging in life.
Finally, we want to help you increase your self-compassion, focusing on how you treat yourself when you are in pain. Rather than blaming yourself for your struggles or internalizing negative cultural messages about chronic pain, you will learn to respond to yourself with kindness and compassion, the same way you would respond to a friend or a loved one in distress.
Living with chronic tension headaches or migraines is not the trivial issue that many people like to think it is. It’s debilitating. But with our well-rounded, compassionate approach to headache treatment, it is possible to break the cycle of pain and fear in your life and reduce the tension and stress that your headaches cause.
You may have some concerns about therapy for headaches…
Everyone gets headaches, so I should be able to deal with them on my own.
While a lot of people experience the occasional headache, chronic headaches are a very different beast. They don’t go away after taking a Tylenol, and they are disruptive no matter how strong or resilient you are. That’s why getting the right treatment is so important. The usual solutions that work for other people probably don’t work for you—you may prefer more long-term, holistic intervention from a specialist who can address the mental, physical and emotional aspects of your headache.
I would prefer to just take a pill or undergo a medical procedure to make my pain disappear.
Sometimes, medication or medical intervention is enough to help you find relief for migraines and tension headaches. But since you are reading this page, it’s likely that you already tried those options and they didn’t give you the relief you wanted. What’s more, medication often comes with negative side effects, puts you at risk for addiction or dependence, and can’t equip you with any new coping skills. Here in headache treatment, we will teach you skills for reducing tension and improving self-regulation that can last for the rest of your life.
I am too afraid to start moving and doing things. It will make my headaches worse.
We’re not here to push you to perform any rigorous physical exercise and exert yourself beyond your limits. That’s why we want you to check with your doctor to make sure physical activity is advisable for you. If so, our aim is to help you take baby steps to overcome your fear of moving and being active. By working slowly and carefully, it is possible to get back into living your life the way you’d want to without causing your headaches to flare up.
Learn To Interpret and Respond to Your Pain In a Healthier Way
If you’re tired of fruitless attempts to relieve your pain, we would be honored to offer you a different approach. Here at the Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback, our goal is to help you regard yourself and your pain in a compassionate, mindful, and life-affirming way. To get started, you can email us, use the contact page, or call 617-231-0011 for a free, 15-minute phone consultation.
We are located in Post Office square, in the heart of Boston Financial District. We offer teletherapy appointments and in-person appointments, adhering strictly to COVID-19 precautions. Click here to read more about scheduling and payment options.
Boston Center for Health Psychology and Biofeedback was founded by Dr. Inna Khazan, an internationally recognized expert in the fields of biofeedback and mindfulness. Our talented and dedicated team now also includes Jenae Spencer, LMHC, an experienced therapist and trauma specialist.