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How To Stop Tension Headaches

Many people suffer from headaches, but not many people understand why. There are many types of headaches, over 150 actually, and they are often misdiagnosed or self-diagnosed. For example, just because you are experiencing severe pain does not necessarily mean you’re a migraine sufferer, as we often hear. Headaches can be caused by many factors, some internal, others external and environmental, such as stress, dehydration, alcohol, smoking, physical exertion, lack of sleep, medications, hormones, muscle tension, joint restrictions, fragrances, and the list goes on and on.  In this post, we will focus on a few common types/causes of headaches and specifically how spinal joints restrictions and tension in the muscles of the head and neck can contribute.


  1. Migraines: Very painful, typically cover a large area of the head and face, may experience nausea and dizziness as well.

  2. Rebound: Headaches caused by a sudden lack of stimulant. The crash you may feel after you're coffee wears off or before you’ve had your first. The headache accompanied by a hangover can also fall into this category.

  3. Tension/Cervicogenic: Caused by tight muscles, which attach on the spine and head and constantly pull and strain. Restricted spinal joints in the neck can also jam and grind causing referral pain up the nerves and into the head. Typically feels like a pressure pain in the back, sides, or forehead region.

Tension headaches underly most of the headaches we encounter in our practice. Whether it be stress, poor postures, or injury, our neck muscles can tighten causing our joints to lock and contribute to the pain. We spend far too much time looking down at phones and laptops which just makes these muscles and joints even more restricted.


These headaches can be addressed and managed with conservative approaches, such as stretching, massage, stress management techniques, hydration, ergonomic postures, and therapeutic exercise prescribed by a physiotherapist or chiropractor. So before jumping to the conclusion that your headaches are here to stay and you’re stuck taking a cocktail of medications to manage your symptoms, get checked out and learn if stiff joints and muscles are causing your discomfort. A proper diagnosis and accurate treatment plan can make all the difference.

Here are a few easy stretches that you can start today to help offload tension in the upper body. Remember to keep the stretches gentle and pain-free, hold for at least 30 seconds, and stop immediately if you feel dizzy or light-headed.

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