Tension Headaches and IBS

I have a couple of health issues I deal with regularly. One is obviously my IBS-D. Another one is tension headaches. While headaches don’t have as big of an impact on my everyday life as my IBS has, they do still affect me a lot when they hit and can often last several days in a row.

A trigger in common

Just like my IBS, my tension headaches often get triggered by stress and anxiety. Sometimes, it’s literal stress like feeling overwhelmed or having too much to do. Other times, they come from a general and often unconscious feeling of anxiety that causes me to clench my jaw, and tense up my shoulders and neck. This then causes a tension headache.

With stress being the trigger, it’s not surprising that these headaches go along with digestive symptoms as well. I often feel slightly nauseous and usually experience some sort of IBS flare during a headache episode.

Chicken or egg

Whenever I go through another flare of tension headaches and IBS at once, I often wonder which causes which. Is it the headache that makes my digestive system react and flare? Is it the IBS that adds additional stress and tension and makes it so hard to get rid of the headache?

All I know is that once one gets better, the other one soon follows. But while they last, there’s just not much I can do.

Headache medication and IBS

I don’t love taking medication and don’t usually take any for my IBS unless I absolutely need to go somewhere or it’s getting out of control. My headaches, however, cannot be left untreated. While everyone tries to convince me that headaches only last a couple of hours and then go away on their own, mine don’t do that. They often last for several days, sometimes over a week, and only keep getting worse if I don’t treat them.

Nowadays, I try to limit myself to paracetamol (acetaminophen) for pain relief. It’s not the most effective, but at least it’s inoffensive to my IBS. Ibuprofen, on the other hand, works a lot better but makes my digestive symptoms so much worse.

Lately, I’ve added California poppy tincture to my headache remedies and also apply magnesium lotion to my neck, shoulders, and temples. These don’t do enough on their own, but in conjunction with paracetamol, they add that little bit of extra relief that the medication alone can’t offer.

Chronic issues don’t come alone

Lately, I started noticing more and more how connected everything is within my body. The chronic health issues I deal with, like anxiety, headaches, and IBS, but also dermatitis and hormonal imbalances, often come and go hand in hand.

When one gets triggered, so do the others. And I still don’t know whether one of those is at the root of all my problems, or if they all just play together to make my life more difficult.

Do you experience tension headaches alongside your IBS? If yes, I’d love to know if you see any correlation between the two!

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