Everybody experiences some degree of tension in their lives. Unfortunately, for many people tension turns into headaches. And those headaches can dramatically undercut your productivity. They can make it hard, if not impossible, to do the things that you need to do or want to do on a daily basis.
If you are experiencing tension headaches on a regular basis, you might be looking for an easy way to combat them. One thing you can try is some basic stretches. For many of us, tension headaches come in full or in part from poor posture and lack of exercise, so this is a good place to start.
Before you start, here are some quick caveats: if any of the moves hurt, stop. There is some value in mild discomfort during stretching, but you need to be checked out first to make sure there aren’t major concerns that need to be addressed. If you have a headache that lasts a week, one that completely disables you, one that worsens, or one that recurs regularly, you need to see a doctor or dentist.
Upper Trapezius / Cervical Extensor Stretch
This stretch goes by several different names but the basic goal is the same: stretch neck and upper back muscles. It’s easy, too, and you can do it while you’re working.
Just tilt your head to the left or right. You’re trying to touch your ear to your shoulder without moving your shoulder. Once you’ve reached maximum extension, you can get a little more flex by reaching up with the arm you’re tilting toward. Put your hand on your ear and pull gently. This shouldn’t hurt–if it does, you’re pulling too hard.
Some people recommend repeating this ten times on each side. Others say pull for 30 seconds once on each side. Try both ways and find which one gives you better results.
Chin Tuck Stretch
This is another easy one to do at work. Basically, just tilt your head forward until your chin touches your chest. Then bend your neck back until you’re facing the ceiling. You should be able to keep your eyes on your screen most of the time you’re stretching. Repeat ten times.
Although you feel the tension in your head and neck, that tension can extend throughout the body. To really combat it, you need to do some stretches elsewhere. Otherwise, tension will quickly return to your head and neck.
The pectoral stretch or pec stretch isn’t quite as easy to do at your desk, but maybe you can still do it while you’re reading an article on your screen. If you want to keep reading while you do it, put your back up against a convenient wall. Bend your arms into an L-shape, straight out from your shoulder and up. Press your arms against the wall. You should feel the stretch in the front and compression in the back. Both are helpful.
Some people find they get a better stretch by doing this move on the floor than they do if they’re standing.
Behind the Back
For this stretch, reach back with both hands. Clasp them behind your back. Then bend backward. This should do more advanced stretching and compression in the upper back, but also extends the effects into the lower back as well.
Wind Relieving Pose
Now this is one you definitely need to get on the floor for. It’s basic yoga, so it’s possible you won’t be able to do it at first.
Start by lying on your back with arms and legs out. Draw both your knees up to your chest and clasp your hands around them. Hold one knee with your hands and let the other leg back to the floor. Stay this way for one minute. Then bring the other knee back up. Hold both knees, then release the one you held first. Hold for a minute. Then bring the first knee back up. Clasp both knees, then release both knees to the floor.
This exercise not only stretches you out, it helps you center and can relieve some stress so you experience less tension.
If Stretching Doesn’t Work
These stretches work great to relieve tension that’s held in your head, neck, shoulders, and back. However, some tension headaches aren’t related to those areas. Some tension headaches come from your jaw, and if they’re related to temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or TMD), they won’t respond to these kinds of stretches–they need more dedicated treatment.
If stretching and other traditional care doesn’t help with your tension headaches, it’s time to seek help from a TMJ dentist.
If you are looking for a TMJ dentist in River Edge, NJ, please call 201-343-4044 today for an appointment with Dr. Marlen Martirossian at the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, & Reconstructive Dentistry.