Top 3 Headache Self Treatments

In college, I called them my Monday headache because every Monday they would come back as I sat back in class looking at power point presentations.  Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with 80% of us experiencing at some point in our lives.

Most of the tension headaches I treat originate from nerves that emerge from the spinal cord at the base of the skull, and then travel over the head, eventually ending at the eyebrows.  There are also similar nerves that go over the temples.  As tension in the muscles surrounding those muscles develops, they get inflamed and begin to send pain signals resulting in a headache.

Here are 3 ways to begin treating tension headaches on your own.

  1. Correct your posture!
    This is the biggest, and hardest one to address.  As your shoulders and head move forward, the muscles on the back of the neck and upper back have to strain to hold the bowling ball we call our head up, resulting in muscle tension.A huge influence on our posture in our current culture is the effect that being on our phones, tablets, and laptops has on our posture.  You are probably reading this on your phone, so you can take a moment to take inventory of your posture right now.Good posture means your ears are over your shoulders, which are then over your hips.  Think of building blocks stacked straight on top of each other so the muscles don’t have to work as hard.
  2. Stretch the neck muscles!
    The muscles surrounding the neck, along with the muscles in the upper neck contribute to the problem, so show them some love and stretch them out! Go gentle so you don’t cause them to tighten up in protection of the neck.  Hold 20-30 seconds and repeat.Myofascial Release Blog Post Utah Physical Therapy
    An easy way to do this is to tip your head forward and to the side, kind of like you are smelling your own armpit.  A variation on this is to stretch going forward and to the side, and then turning the head slightly back the other direction while keeping it to the side.
    Myofascial Release Blog Post Utah Physical Therapy
    Foam roll stretching of the upper back can also help with postural stretching and decrease overall muscle tension.
  3. Racquetball Chin Tucks!
    A great way to get those muscles to release is to tape 2 racquetballs together and then lay with them putting pressure into the muscles at the base of the skull. Hold that position until the muscles relax, and you can even push down a little to get more pressure.Check out our YouTube video on this.

As with all exercises and stretching, I will caution you to stop doing any of these if you have any increase in pain.  These are meant to be relatively pain free, so don’t overdo it. 

There are many things that contribute to tension headaches in most people.  Sometimes it is posture, sometimes it is weakness in the neck, and sometimes it can be a lack of mobility in the joints.  If you are still having pain and are limited by headaches in your life, don’t just wait it out, give us a call.  They are usually very treatable and respond quickly to physical therapy.

We do Free Consultations so give us a call, or stop in, and let us help you get back to living life to the fullest!


David D Butler, DPT, OCS
Owner/Clinic Director
Utah Physical Therapy, Lehi