Exercises for Headaches: A Guide for Self-Management

Written by: Vasundhara Shukla – M. Phil (Psychology)

Last updated date : February 27, 2023

Headaches are widespread; most people may have suffered from them at least once. They could also be a sign of some illness so seeing a doctor is important. Also, there are many types of headaches and the most common one is the tension headache. Moreover, these types of headaches do not cause any other symptoms and are not considered dangerous. But can be very distressing for the person who suffers from them. There are medicines and other treatments which could help reduce the headache. In this article, we will give a brief about headaches and then discuss exercises which are for reducing headaches apart from the traditional ways of treatment. Stretches for tension headaches will also be shared.

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Chapter 1:

Causes and Effects

Although, there are many causes due to which tension headaches occur, here are some of the most common ones-

  1. Eye strain – This can be caused by sitting for long hours at the computer screen or dry eyes.
  2. Neck pain – Sometimes neck and shoulder injury or strain can also affect the head.
  3. Sleep issues – Not being able to sleep properly or not having sound sleep can also lead to headaches.
  4. Stress – Stress is common to all humans living on Earth. There are many causes of stress, and juggling many things at once can also lead to tension headaches.
How Long Does the Headache Last?

A tension headache can last about 15 to 30 minutes in most people. Some people might feel mild headaches throughout the month. In general, a headache that occurred because of a stressful situation lasts no longer than a week.

Chapter 2:

Treatment for Tension

Traditional Treatments
  1. Home remedies- Placing a hot or cold compress on the forehead or the site of the headache can reduce it.
  2. Counseling- This is required to find out the reasons behind the stress which is causing the headache.
  3. Relaxation- Deep breathing exercises and listening to your favorite music can help with the pain.
  4. Meditation- This is a very effective way to deal with headaches. All you have to do is to find yourself in a quiet spot and observe the thoughts passing by.
  5. Biofeedback- This is a machine that can help you relax when it notices that your heart rate increases.
  6. Medicines
Exercises for Headaches

Yoga, exercise, and stretching might help in reducing tension headaches in several ways. Also, With regular practice, your body becomes better at handling stress. Stretching also involves slow, deep breathing and it can help loosen the muscles and release physical tension. This can further help manage migraine attacks, as physical tension can worsen pain and stress. However, not all types of yoga postures and exercises are done for headaches. So, here are some poses that can help you in managing head and shoulder pain.

Chin Tuck Stretch for Tension Headaches

Many people assume a poor posture throughout the day. This increases the chances of headaches. This stretch helps to strengthen back muscles and helps you assume a better posture. To do these kinds of exercises for headaches, look straight ahead with your back straight. Gently start bending your neck in the forward direction so that your neck starts touching the chest. Feel the stretch at the nape of your neck. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly straighten the neck again.

Muscle Relaxing Exercises for Headaches

Sit straight and breathe in and breathe out gently. Rotate your head slowly in a circular motion two times. Do not rush this motion. After this, roll your shoulders back and front twice each. Take a deep breath in and then out.

Wind Relieving Pose Stretches for Tension Headaches

Lie on your back and take a deep breath in. While exhaling, lift your knees and fold them in a way that they are on your chest or stomach. Wrap your arms around your knees and tuck your chin in your chest. Keep the lower spine resting on the ground. Keep breathing and do this for 10 seconds.

The Child’s Pose Stretches for Tension Headaches

The child’s pose is a classic yoga move. It stretches the upper back while calming the mind. Kneel on the floor with your knees spread out and toes touching each other. Rest the buttocks on the thighs. Slowly bend forward on the mat keeping your hands stretched out. Place your forehead on the mat and hold for 10 seconds or more. Breathe normally.

Seated Forward Fold Exercises for Headaches

The act of resting your head on something can feel very soothing. The pose also loosens the muscles in your legs. Sit on the floor and straighten your legs in front of you. If you require extra support place a cushion or blanket under your buttocks. Point your toes towards the ceiling and bend forward by placing your chest on your thighs. Bend the knees gently if you feel uncomfortable. Lie with your forehead on your legs and try to touch your toes with your hands. Be in this position for 10 seconds.

Preventing Tension Headaches

It is still not clear what exactly causes headaches and for different types of headaches, there are different treatments. Lifestyle changes and stress management is the best way to prevent headaches. Here are some things you can do-

  • Get regular head and shoulder massages
  • Keep fit by exercising regularly
  • Drink adequate water and keep yourself hydrated
  • Get adequate sleep and avoid late nights
  • Go for regular checkups with a doctor
  • Take your medications as directed
  • limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Get adequate sleep and avoid late nights

Chapter 3:


Headaches are classified as chronic pain. And they can be very stressful for the sufferer and can lead to a lower quality of life. Therefore, it becomes important to take steps to reduce their frequency. A healthy lifestyle and regular exercise have been proven cures for headaches. Use the exercises listed in this article to see improvements, along with doctor-recommended medicines. For more information on the management of chronic pain, please enroll in our course ‘Chronic Pain‘.

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92 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

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25% discount