Info Sheet: Tension Headaches

Disclaimer! This info sheet is a general overview of tension headaches and a professional should review the stretches to make sure you are doing them properly. It is important to note that it’s not sport specific, nor would it be appropriate for a more serious injury- if you are not sure about the stretches, or experiencing any neural symptoms (such as pins & needles or numbness) don’t make your condition worse by doing something inappropriate. Book an appointment at STC and we can check it out.

What are tension headaches?

Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches amongst adults.
They can last anywhere between half an hour to a few days.
Tension headaches are characterised by a dull pain or pressure around the head/neck.

What causes them?

Tension headaches are usually caused by stress or sitting in positions that cause strain. They can also be triggered by bad posture.

Symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Pain or pressure around the head
  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness

Treatment options:

  • Develop stress management techniques
  • Avoid sitting in uncomfortable positions for lengthy periods of time
  • Adjust posture to support the neck/head better
  • Heat or ice packs
  • Assessment with physiotherapist or GP
  • Long term: regular exercise and relaxation


Stretch suggestions –

Pec stretch

  • Stand close to a wall, with your shoulder and elbow both at 90 degrees.
  • Hold your arm against the wall and slowly twist your body away from the wall until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulder.
  • Hold this for 20 seconds, repeat 5 times.
  • You can progress this stretch by moving your arm higher up the wall.




DSC04368DSC04370Thoracic spine mobility –  foam roller

  • Lie with your upper back on a foam roller.
  • Supporting your neck with your hands, roll up and down the roller, trying not to arch in your lower back.
  • Continue for 1-2 minutes or less as tolerated.







Neck stretch

  • Clasp your hands together behind your back.
  • Pull your shoulders back and arms down to feel a gentle stretch in your back and across your chest.
  • Turn your head to the right hold for 5 seconds.
  • Turn your head to the left, hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times.












DSC04373Neck traction stretch

  • Sitting comfortably, link your hands together and place on the back of your neck.
  • Gently pull your hands forward and upward to feel a gentle stretch through the length of your neck.
  • Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.