5 Exercises for Eliminating Headaches
A significant portion of the population suffers from headaches and as Leah Adams, DPT reported in a previous blog, many of them are treatable through physical therapy and exercise. Specifically, cervicogenic and tension-type headaches can benefit from stretching, posture correction, and strengthening. Below are five exercises to lead you to headache-free living!
First, let’s discuss some stretches to perform if you have a headache currently. If your headache is spread symmetrically across the base of the back of your head or evenly across your forehead, the first two stretches may be the most appropriate.
- Cervical Retraction (commonly called chin tucks): sitting in a chair with a straight back, look straight ahead, slowly bring your head back and tuck your chin while maintaining your gaze level. You should feel as if you are elongating your neck and will notice your chest raising as your midback straightens. Perform 10 repetitions in a slow in and out position. Then perform 2-5 sets of 20 to 30 second holds taking note of the effect on your headache. If the intensity diminishes or the location moves to a smaller, more focused area at the base of your head, then continue 3-4x/day. Demonstration
- Cervical Retraction/Flexion: Perform cervical retraction motion as described above, then while maintaining the chin tuck, bend neck and head downwards and hold. Perform 2-5 sets of 20 to 30 seconds, 3-4x/day again taking note of your symptom response as described in cervical retraction. Demonstration
If your headaches tend to be more one-sided, the following stretch may be helpful.
- Cervical Retraction/Rotation: Perform cervical retraction motion as described above, then maintain the chin tuck, and turn your head until a stretch is felt. Often the most effective side will be toward the side of the headache or the side that feels most tight. As above, Perform 10 repetitions in a slow back and forth motion to one side. Then perform 2-5 sets of 20 to 30 second holds taking note of the effect on your headache. If the intensity diminishes or the location moves to a smaller, more focused area at the base of your head, then continue 3-4x/day. You can compare the effect with stretching in the other direction. Demonstration
Now considering prevention, the following two exercises aim to improve posture and develop strength.
- Posture over-correction: sitting at the edge of a chair, straighten your back by raising your chest, then squeeze your shoulder blades together and finally perform a chin tuck. Hold 5 secs and repeat 10 times. After the 10th rep, if you let off the overcorrected position a little bit you will be in the correct posture. Perform several times daily especially if you are sitting for prolonged periods. Demonstration
- Deep cervical flexor strengthening: Lying on your back, perform a chin tuck and then lift the back of your head one inch off the surface. Hold 2-5 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Perform once daily. Demonstration
You shouldn’t have to suffer from headaches, especially of cervical or tension origin. Our physical therapists here at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy are available to answer your questions through our free consultation appointments. Check out our website for a location near you.