A headache is a common symptom that many people deal with. Globally, it has been estimated that 47% of adults have had at least one headache within the last year. There are many different types of headaches with many different names including tension headaches, cluster headaches, and cervicogenic headaches. Headaches can also be caused by many different factors including stress, neck pain, decreased neck motion, decreased neck strength, tight muscles in the neck and back, and poor posture. Many times, physical therapy can address these factors and help decrease your headaches. The following information can help you determine if you are experiencing headaches and what you can do to try and address them.
Symptoms that you may experience with headaches:
- Pain at the base of your head
- Pain that goes up your neck
- Pain that goes into one or both sides of your head around the temple
Exercises that you can try to address your headaches:
- Correct your posture
- Sit or stand straight, pull your shoulders back so they are in line with your hips, and pull your head back so your ears are in line with your shoulders.
- Neck Rotation
- While sitting or standing with correct posture, turn your head to look over your right shoulder until you feel a stretch, hold for 2 seconds, and then turn your head to look over your left shoulder until you feel a stretch, hold for 2 seconds. Repeat this for 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Neck stretches (Upper Trapezius Stretch)
- While sitting or standing with correct posture, tilt your head so your right ear is going towards your right shoulder and use your right hand to gently pull your head in that direction until a stretch is felt, hold for 10-20 seconds. Repeat this same process when tilting the head to the left towards with left shoulder. Repeat 3-5 times to each side.
- Neck Retractions
- While sitting or standing with correct posture, pull your head slightly back while keeping the head level (do not tilt the chin up or down). Hold this position for 5-8 seconds and then relax. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
- Shoulder Pinches
- While sitting or standing with correct posture, pinch the shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 5-8 seconds and then relax. Perform 2 sets of 10 repetitions.
This post was written by Dr. Jessica Ellebruch, DPT ATC
**This does not constitute as medical advice. See a healthcare professional if necessary.**
World Health Organization. Headache Disorders. Available at: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs277/en/. Accessed January 28, 2015.
Houglum PA. Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries. 2nd ed. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2005.
Kendall FP, McCreary EK, Provance PG, et al. Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005.