Back to top

Relief from tension headaches

Three exercises to help with tension headache are neck stretches, using a peanut, and relaxation techniques.

Tension headaches can also be thought of as stress headaches. This can be related to any type of stress: new job, financial difficulties, childcare duties, or difficulty with sleeping. These stressors cause an increase in muscle spasms and overuse of neck musculature. The pain is usually on both sides of your head and feels like a tight band that is constantly throbbing.

Three exercises to relieve tension headaches:

  1. Neck stretches: start by sitting with your left hand tucked underneath your left thigh. Bring your right ear to your right shoulder, turn and look down towards your right armpit, and then look up to the right. Return to center. Perform 10 times on each side.


  1. Peanut stretches: start by laying on your back with the peanut underneath the base of your skull. Lay there for 60 seconds. Move the peanut down your neck an inch or two, and again lay for 60 seconds. You can keep moving the peanut down from your neck towards the middle of your back. Peanuts are available for purchase online at the Rose store.


  1. Breathing Techniques: start by laying on your back in a calm environment. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Focus by breathing in and out of your belly; the hand on your chest should not move. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and then breathe out for 6 seconds. Perform this breathing technique for 5 minutes.

The main goal of these exercises is to promote both muscle and full body relaxation. These exercises are things to always keep in your back pocket and use throughout the day, before life stressors increase and tension headaches come back. The neck stretches can be performed at any time during the day: between work meetings, sitting on the metro, or even waiting for your waiter to bring you a drink during bottomless brunch. If you’re short on time, you can use the peanut and breathing techniques simultaneously.

If after two to four weeks of the exercises above and trying to hone in on stressful triggers, it may be time to come in for physical therapy. Here at Rose our clinicians at our offices on Capitol Hill or in downtown Washington, DC are certified in trigger point dry needling, as well as able to perform active release techniques and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization. All treatment sessions are one-on-one with your treating therapist, giving you peace of mind that you’re being cared for and cared about by our team.