Simple Stretches to Relieve and Prevent Tension Headaches
Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA
A sore and stiff neck, as well as a sore or stiff back and tight shoulders are often experienced by people first thing in the morning as well as at the end of a long work day.
Gentle stretching exercises can help alleviate the aches associated with tight muscles of these regions.
Keeping your flexibility is important to preventing discomfort, including headaches, as well as minimizing chances of injury.The
following stretches should be performed upon wakening as well as during
breaks at work to minimize tightness and decrease the potential of
tension related headaches.
Neck StretchesDay to day living, poor posture, and injury often result in tight neck
muscles which can contribute to chronic headaches. Gentle neck
stretching exercises can be quite effective in decreasing
muscle tightness. The exercises can be performed without fancy
equipment and only takes a few minutes. Four simple neck stretching
Stretch - Chin to Chest. 1) Gently bend your head forward while
bringing your chin toward your chest. 2) Stop when a stretch is felt in
the back of your neck. 3) Hold position for 15-30 seconds. 4) Return to
starting position. (Neck in midline position). 5) Repeat above stretch
5 more times.
Stretch - 1) Gently bend your head backward so that your eyes are
looking up.2) Stop when a stretch is felt in the front of your neck. 3)
Hold position for15-30 seconds. 4) Return to starting position. (Neck
in midline position). 5) Repeat above stretch 5 more times.
- Rotation -Side to Side. 1)
Gently turn your head to the left, looking over your left shoulder. 2)
Stop when a stretch is felt in the right side of your neck. 3) Hold
position for 15 seconds. 4) Return to starting position. (Neck in
midline position). 5) Repeat above stretch 5 more times. 6) Gently turn
your head to the right, looking over your right shoulder. 7) Stop when
a stretch is felt in the left side of your neck. 8) Hold position
for150 seconds. 9) Return to starting position. (Neck in midline
position). 10) Repeat above stretch 5 more times.
Flexion - Ear to Shoulder. 1) Gently bend your neck in attempts to
touch your left ear to your shoulder. 2) Stop when a stretch is felt in
the right side of your neck. 3) Hold position for 15-30 seconds.
Stretching your shoulders can feel good, especially for those of us who
spend long hours hunched over a computer. It can also improve
your posture. Some good examples of stretches that can help relieve
Shoulder Stretch. 1) Hold your left arm across your body and grab the
back of your left elbow with your right hand. 2) Pull the left elbow in
as far as you can so that your left fingertips can reach your upper
back. 3) Hold position for 15-30 seconds. 4) Repeat for the right
Shoulder. This behind-your-back shoulder stretch will stretch the front
of the shoulder and the chest. 1) Begin standing up straight with
shoulders relaxed and backs. 2) Clasp your hands behind your lower
back. If you have difficulty doing this, hold on to a towel or walking
pole positioned horizontally behind your back. 3) Lift your clasped
hands, keeping your elbows straight, back out away from your body. 4)
Keep an upright posture. Stop lifting at the point you no longer feel
comfortable; don't stretch to the point of pain. 5) Stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Shoulder Rolls. Roll the shoulders down and back, starting with small circles and working up to larger circles. Do 10 circles backwards and then repeat forward circles.
Circles. With one arm at a time, make backwards arm circle with your
palm facing out, thumb pointed up. Repeat 15 with each arm.
Shoulder Stretch. 1) Take the hands straight out in front of you and
rotate the arms so that the palms face away from each other. 2)
Cross the arms so that the palms are pressed together and round the
back, reaching the arms away from you as you relax the head. 3) Hold
the stretch for 30 seconds.
Day to day activities can often cause tight back muscles. Over time this can result in significant back pain and increase your risk for back injury. The following exercises will help stretch the major muscles of
your back in a quick and effective way. Performing these stretches will
help prevent back pain and assist in reducing present back aches.
- Back Stretch. 1) Contract the abs as you tip forward from the hips, bringing the hands down to the floor. 2) Relax the head down and reach with your fingertips to stretch the back. 3) Hold for 30 seconds.
Back and Shoulder Stretch. 1) Contract the abs as you tip forward from
the hips. 2) Take the feet wide and bring the arms inside the legs,
then wrap the arms around the back of the calves, grabbing onto the
ankles. 3) Gently pull with the hands to open the shoulders and stretch the upper back. 4) Hold for 30 seconds.