Treating Tension Type Headaches


Tension type headaches, which originate most often in the cervical spine and which generally manifest as a tight band of discomfort, affect almost half of the population. Headaches, in fact, are responsible for many billions of dollars of healthcare spending by both public and private agencies, and the overall economic impact includes significant lost work time when individuals are prevented from performing their usual employment duties.

Relationship between Weak Muscles and Poor Posture

Though the primary cause of cervical dysfunction is not yet well understood, recent studies have shown that poor muscular strength in the cervical spine is likely to play a major role in neck and head discomfort. Weaknesses in the anterior and posterior musculature ultimately cause degradation within the biomechanics of the upper spine, which can then place undue stress on the flexor muscles within the neck itself. Forward head posture (FHP) is a key indicator of cervical weakness, especially when compared with the postures found within normalized control groups.

Why Targeted Exercises Work

Proactive exercise programs are often helpful in ameliorating tension type headache pain. Sufferers of headaches can perform a number of routine exercises that will improve the strength and endurance of muscles in the target area. The following are likely to benefit:

  • diaphragm
  • transversus abdominis
  • pelvic floor

Neck flexor muscles can be trained in a similar manner. As the target muscle groups are strengthened, body posture will improve at the same time.

Practical Exercises for the Correction of Body Posture

There are a number of exercises that can be done to improve the posture of the body. The “Rocket,” which is one of the most useful and practical, is generally accomplished from a sitting position. Individuals can press against the armrests of the chair (or against the bars of a specialized posture device) to create lift within the torso. The idea is to lengthen the spine by performing this exercise in sets of threes several times each day. Any hints of dizziness should bring the repetitions to a stop.

The “Release” works in tandem with the “Rocket.” The entire upper portion of the spine, including the neck and shoulders, should be capable of operating as one unit. When the build-up of stress occurs in the upper portion of the spine, the head and neck may loll slightly forward, which will place undue pressure on muscles, bones, and even nerves.

From the standing position, individuals can release some of the extra tension in the upper back by gripping and pressing lightly against a solid object. Through time, myofascial trigger points will become much less apparent, and most men and women find that their posture, as well as the overall biomechanics of the spine, will be more in line with clinical norms.

Regular performance of both of these exercises may lead to an amelioration of pain associated with the following conditions:

  • Headaches
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Acute/chronic pain in upper torso

Ultimately, headache pain can be controlled with the right exercise regimen. By strengthening the deep neck flexors and concentrating on FHP, most individuals can address their postural imbalances. Targeted tweaks to the body’s biomechanics can prevent headaches, decrease healthcare costs, and improve productivity in the workplace going forward.


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