Relieve Tension Headaches with Simple Stretches

Hi, I'm Doctor Jo, a Physical Therapist and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I hope you enjoy my video demos of stretches & exercises for common injuries and syndromes. Be safe. Have fun. And I hope you feel better soon.

Buy the Tension Headache WorksheetTension headaches are very common, and they can really shut you down. Stress is the number one cause of tension headaches. With some simple stretches and exercises, you can relax the muscles that are causing the pain.

To start off, you want to loosen up your neck muscles with some active range of motion (ROM). Turn your head from side to side or rotate it.  Just turn until you feel some tension, and then turn back the other way. Then side bend your head where you are trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. You are not bringing your shoulder up to your ear, but you are bringing your ear down. Then bring your head up and down like you are looking at the ceiling and then looking at the floor. Do each of these about 5-10 times holding 3-5 seconds. If you are not feeling much of a stretch, then you can add some pressure with your hand. Hold these a little longer for about 10-15 seconds each.

Then you are going to do isometric exercises in each direction. Basically this is when you activate the muscle, but you are not moving it. You can do this by gently pressing into your hand in each direction. Hold each one of these for 3-5 seconds.

Now you can do shoulder shrugs where you are bringing your shoulders upwards towards the ceiling. Do about 10-15.  Then you can do shoulder circles; 10 one way, and then reverse it. Next do some shoulder squeezes where you are squeezing your shoulder blades together. Imagine someone has their hand on your spine and you are trying to squeeze their hand with your shoulder blades. Hold 3-5 seconds and do about 10.  

The last exercise is a chin tuck. This can be done lying down. Roll up a towel and place it in the curve of your neck for support and for a target. You want to tuck in your chin towards the ground. So it’s not tucking it towards your chest, but actually trying to push it downwards where your neck muscles push into the towel. Do that about 10 times.


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