Proven link: tension headaches and weak neck muscles

by | May 11, 2015 | Body Awareness, Posture, Alignment, Exercise, Fitness & Rehab, Neck Pain, Headache and Pinched Nerves | 0 comments

exercise for headache relief

The muscles of the back of the neck have the important job of keeping your head from falling forward. Without them you’d constantly be planting your face in your soup.

The trouble is, today’s jobs require you to spend too much time with your head hanging forward and your eyes glued to the computer screen. That overloads those extensor muscles in the back of the neck. Weakness of these muscles has now been proven to be linked to headache and neck pain.

That means that a program to alleviate tension headache has to include strengthening exercises for the neck extensors.

I’ve devised an optimal strengthening exercise for these muscles. Here’s the most basic version:

  1. Find a stool (a padded one works best – or else place a pillow on top of it.)
  2. Lie face down with your chest on the stool. Your head and about two inches of your upper back should hang forward over the edge.
  3. Slowly lift your head until it’s horizontal and aligned with your upper back. This activates the important neck extensor muscles.
  4. Slowly lower, then repeat 6-8 times.

You can try this at home. (Of course, if it hurts or feels wrong, stop immediately.)

Although you might find your headaches getting better just from this one exercise, most people with headaches need a more comprehensive approach.

A more effective plan for fixing your headache pattern has 4 parts. Here’s how I incorporate them into my practice:

  1. Strengthen your neck muscles. Starting with the basic exercise outlined above, I show you ways to make it successively more challenging to boost your functional neck strength.
  2. Release the tight knots of the neck muscles. Hands-on treatment with trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and NeuroTactile® Therapy can all help.
  3. Improve your body alignment with proper ergonomic design and postural awareness. In my practice I teach the important factors in spine alignment and help your body incorporate them as an unconscious habit.
  4. Unlock restricted motion of the joints of the neck and upper back. That’s the role of the joint play maneuvers I utilize, including basic chiropractic adjustments.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.

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