Tension headache cause, symptoms, and treatment with 5 exercises

Tension headache is the most common type of headache in the world. It is constantly present and very annoying. It limits you in everything you do.

Fortunately, there is a way to reduce or eliminate your tension headache.

The complaints will slowly decrease through several physiotherapeutic exercises and posture advice. You can do these tension headache exercises at home.

Eventually, the tension headache complaints will disappear completely.

In this article, I explain how tension headaches arise, what the symptoms are, and how you can treat them yourself with 5 exercises.

So read on quickly

Tension headache cause, symptoms, and treatment with 5 exercises

The cause of tension headaches

Tension headaches are usually caused by painful muscles in the neck or a stiff neck.

Your head is supported by 7 cervical vertebrae. Various muscles run around these cervical vertebrae. These muscles must work well together to keep your head in the same position for a long time and to move properly.

If this does not work properly, the muscles can become stiff and sensitive. This initially leads to neck pain, but if it lasts longer, it can radiate to your head. Then we speak of tension headaches.

The cause of the painful muscles is overload. The overload can have 2 causes:

  • Stress
  • Wrong posture and weak muscles

Stress causes muscles to become stiffer. You develop more tension in your muscles, which causes constant muscle pain.

In addition, incorrect posture causes strain on the neck muscles, which causes tension headaches.

Many people sit with their heads forward and their upper back arched. This causes gravity to try to pull your head down. To keep your head up, your neck muscles have to work hard. This makes them stiff and overloaded. This can cause tension headaches and sometimes tinnitus.

Jaw pain can also cause tension headaches. If your jaw muscles are very stiff, this can cause radiance to the side of your head.

Tension headache cause, symptoms, and treatment with 5 exercises

Tension headache symptoms

Tension headache is a form of headache caused by painful muscles. The muscles cause radiating pain to the forehead, back of the head, or the side of your head. This pain is sometimes experienced as a band around the head.

The following symptoms are associated with tension headaches according to the International Headache Society:

  • The headache lasts for hours, days or is constant
  • The headache is felt on both sides of the head
  • The headache feels like a pressing sensation but is not pulsating
  • Mild pain intensity
  • The headache does not increase with physical exertion
  • There is no nausea or sensitivity to light

To cure your tension headache, you must eliminate the cause. We will do this with the 5 tension headache exercises that aim to improve your posture and strengthen muscles.

Tension headache cause, symptoms, and treatment with 5 exercises

Tension headache treatment with 5 physiotherapy exercises

To effectively treat tension headaches, it is important to reduce stress and increase the resilience of your neck muscles.

You can reduce stress by exercising more, taking a walk outside, through meditation or yoga. Massaging your neck muscles yourself also helps to reduce your tension headaches.

In addition, it is important to take matters into your own hands when it comes to your happiness. Address issues that cause you stress to solve problems. You largely determine your happiness.

Furthermore, it is important to remove the provocation of your complaints caused by your posture.

We do this through a series of exercises

Tension headache relief with 5 exercises and home remedies

Tension headache exercise 1: Improve the mobility of your neck

The first exercise you have to do is to improve the mobility of your neck.

When your neck is stiff, your neck muscles have to work harder to move it, which enhances the tension. By improving mobility, your neck muscles have a chance to relax.

Sufficient neck mobility is also essential for improving your posture, which I’ll discuss later.

Perform the exercise like this:

Wrap a towel around your neck

  • Take with your left hand the right side of the towel and with your right hand the left side
  • Now lift the hand that is in front up until the towel is at the same height as your cheek
  • Now pull with your arm and the towel your head in full rotation to the side
  • Repeat this ten times and then change to the opposite side by changing your hands
  • Finally, grasp the towel normally and lift your arms, and look up at the same time

You can also see how to perform the exercise in this video.

Perform this exercise twice a day. Rotate your neck as far as you can. It might hurt at first, but that’s no problem. You will feel it improve within days.

Together with the mobility of your neck, you’ll also have to improve the mobility of your upper back.

tension headache exercise 1 improve the mobility of your neck

Tension headache exercise 2: Improve the mobility of your upper back

The second exercise you have to do is to improve the mobility of your upper back. You’ll need a flexible upper back to be able to maintain a posture that doesn’t aggravate your tension headache.

To perform this exercise, you’ll have to buy this back stretcher.

By laying over this back stretcher. You’ll feel that your spine stretches and loosens up. You can also use it to stretch your lower back.

Lay down on it for about 20 minutes and several times a day. You’ll feel a significant difference within a week or so.

When your neck and upper back are mobile enough, it’s time to work on a posture that doesn’t tense up your neck muscles.

back stretcher

Tension headache exercise 3: Improve your posture

As mentioned before, a forward head posture is a factor that has to be treated to reduce your tension headache.

It’s relatively easy to improve your posture when sitting or walking.

All you have to do is stretch up your chest and pull in your chin.

Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat it several times a day. You can see the difference in posture in the picture below.

As you can see, in the left picture, my head is in front of my body. Gravity pulls my head towards the ground in this position. Therefore, my neck muscles have to work hard all the time to prevent this. It makes them tired and causes them to tense up. It increases the tension and therefore the pain.

In the right picture, my head is in line with my body and resting on my neck. Now gravity pulls it firmly on my neck, and my muscles don’t have to do much.

It’s a posture that can be maintained for an extended period without much muscle activity. It’s a critical element in treating your tension headache.

But to be able to maintain this position, you’ll have to train specific muscles in your neck that pull your chin in.

Also, make sure your workplace is set up correctly.

That’s what the next exercise is for.

Tension headache exercise 3 improve your posture

Tension headache exercise 4: Training your deep neck muscles

At the front of your neck, you have muscles that pull your head down. When you pull your chin in, you need these muscles to keep your head straight. They are referred to as the deep neck flexors.

Usually, these muscles are weak because of your forward head position. You’ll have to train them to be able to maintain the posture you need to treat your tension headache.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Lay down on your back
  • Pull your chin in as far as you can and hold this position
  • Now lift your head about 2 cm (1 inch) with your chin pulled in
  • Hold this as long as you can
  • Repeat this five times.

You can also see how to perform the exercise in the picture below.

When performing this exercise, you’ll notice that you can’t keep your chin pulled in. That’s when you fail the exercise and have to rest for the second repetition.

You should be able to hold the position about 15-20 seconds after training for a few weeks. In the beginning, some people can’t hold the position for longer than 5 seconds. That’s no problem, just work your way up.

tension headache exercise 4 train your deep neck muscles

Tension headache exercise 5: Stretch your neck muscles

The last exercise you have to perform is to stretch your tense neck muscles. These muscles run from your shoulders to the back of your head and are called your trapezius muscles.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Place your hand on your head
  • Pull your head sideways
  • Also, rotate your head to the same side until you feel the maximum stretch
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds
  • Repeat three times on both sides

You can see how to perform the exercise in this video.

Perform the exercise twice a day. When the tension of these muscles reduces, you’ll also experience fewer headaches.

tension headache exercise 5 stretch your neck muscles


As you can see, with a few simple exercises, you can treat your tension headache yourself. When you have any more questions after reading this article, feel free to send me an e-mail.

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