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Neck Exercises for Tension Headaches

By Joshua McCarron ; Updated August 14, 2017

Tension headaches are common, and can occur for a variety of reasons. These types of headaches can range in severity from a moderate annoyance to a debilitating pounding that can severely impact your quality of life, particularly if they happen frequently. Different treatments are available for tension headache, including various neck exercises.

Headache Causes

A tension headache is characterized by discomfort in the scalp, neck or head, and is often connected to muscle tension or tightness in the affected area. These headaches may occur at any age, but are most common in adolescents and adults. Tension headaches can have many different causes, including anxiety, stress, depression or a mild head injury, notes MedlinePlus. Performing activities that cause your head to be stuck in the same position for long periods of time, like typing or other computer work, can cause a tension headache, as can sleeping on the wrong size pillow, too much caffeine, eye strain and general fatigue.

Exercise Helps

Utilizing gentle neck exercises will help relax the muscles that may be contributing to your tension headache. Many people carry stress and tightness in their shoulders and neck, so keeping the area loose will eliminate that as a factor. Performing regular neck exercises can also improve your posture, which will reduce the likelihood of back problems as well as tension headaches.

Some Basic Moves

When performing neck exercises that will help alleviate a tension headache, keep your spine straight, shoulders forward and neck relaxed, advises ABC-of-Yoga.com. Also, keep breathing evenly throughout each movement. To work your neck, start by bending your head forward to touch your chin to your chest, then raise it back to the start. Next, bend it to the right and then back, backwards and back, and to the left and back. Hold each position for 3 to 5 seconds. To finish, drop your head forward and make a wide circle one way, then the other way.

Prevention and Precautions

Your neck is a relatively delicate area of your body that must be moved and exercised with care if you are to see positive results. Avoid moving in quick, jerky motions or bouncing as part of your neck exercises. Remember to breathe deeply throughout each exercise session, and never move your head or neck beyond its natural range of motion. If you experience any discomfort beyond the normal feelings of stretching muscles, stop immediately and seek medical attention.

Alternative Treatments

If neck exercises are not giving you the relief you need, you do have other options. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen are popular choices for a tension headache. Some people turn to chiropractic and massage therapy, while others simply refrain from doing the activity that gave them the headache in the first place. Getting adequate sleep and relieving the stress in your life may also help.

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