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Relieving Tension Headaches and Neck Pain


I think it’s safe to say that life has become a little tense for everybody over the recent weeks as we watch the latest news unfold, worry about what it means for us and more worryingly what it means for our loved ones.

As complementary health clinics close their doors in order to support the country in reducing the spread of Coronavirus; it is becoming more apparent that advice on how to help ease tension at home is needed. In clinic I was already seeing patients with tension headaches and muscular tension that was a direct result of stress and worry about the current pandemic. So; how can you get some relief from this while our clinics are not running? Fortunately there are a number of things that will help from stretches to release techniques and remembering good posture.

Aside from headaches occurring due to the stressful times that we are in, tension in the neck and shoulders is also a big cause of these headaches. The tension in these muscles occurs when we hitch our shoulder up when stressed, adopting poor posture and through general aches and pains associated with daily living. Tension in these muscles causes further tension in the base of the skull and pressure will lead to vice like tension headaches. Whenever I see people with recurrent headaches in clinic one of my first questions is ‘does the headaches feel like it is coming from the inside out or the outside in’. When the answer is from the outside in it is always the result of restriction (tightness/tension) in the Trapezius and neck extensor muscles. Soft tissue release and assisted stretching during treatments significantly reduce or resolve the patient’s symptoms. The good news is that there are some stretches and self-release techniques that you can do at home to help until our doors are open once again. See below link for a demonstration of these self help techniques.

Neck Extensor Stretch – This stretch will help to ease tension at the base of the skull and into the upper back. Gently drop your head down to your chest, once you feel the stretch in the back of your neck hold this for 45 seconds. The stretch should also be felt between the shoulder blades. Repeat this 3 times.

Trapezius Stretch – This will help ease tension in the neck and shoulders. Gently drop your head down to one side. The aim is not to touch your head to your shoulder but to feel a stretch in the opposite side of your neck. This should be done to both sides for 45 seconds and repeated 3 times.

Soft Tissue Release – In the absence of a massage therapist, osteopath or acupuncturist you can reduce some of the knots in your shoulders by using a rubber ball or a ball that has some give to it. Find a decent chair with a high back, not your sofa as this will be too soft, or a wall and sit up against it. Now place the ball between your back and the chair or wall and find a knotty spot. Now rest against the ball and wait for 2-3 minutes while the knot releases under the pressure of the ball. Then move on to the next area of tension. Do not put pressure on to the point of pain or to the point where it could bruise. By working at releasing some of these knots you should feel more comfortable until you can have treatment from a professional.

And finally; taking care to support your muscular system by adopting correct posture when working at your laptop, looking at your phone and watching the TV will really help. We tend to put our heads in a forward position without realising; this adds tension to those all important neck muscles and can significantly increase headaches as a result. By being mindful of how you hold your head, shoulders and neck you can really help to reduce undue tension in your neck muscles.

Over the next few weeks I will be offering online face time consultations and will discuss individual needs in terms of stretches, exercises and release techniques to support patients through this time and to help manage daily aches and pains until we can open our clinics again.

Keep well, stay safe and look after those muscles as best you can.

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