Tension headaches occur in as many as 78 percent of the population, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Tension in the muscles of the neck and scalp lead to these painful headaches. This may be because of stress or holding the head in one position for too long, but changes in brain chemicals may also be behind the tight muscles. Stretches can help relieve tension and reduce headaches.
Behind the Back Stretch
The behind the back stretch may prevent tension headaches. Although this stretch is called the behind the back stretch, it actually lengthens your chest and the front of your shoulders. A chair with a back that comes halfway up your back is ideal for doing this exercise. To perform this exercise, sit on the edge of the seat with your feet on the floor. Reach your arms behind your back and hook your arms over the back of the chair. Retract your shoulder blades. Keep your head up and chest lifted. You should feel a stretch a stretch in your shoulder joints. Do not stretch to the point of pain in your chest or shoulders.
Yoga Neck Exercises and Shoulder Shrugs
Yoga neck exercises release tension in the neck muscles. Tight neck muscles lead to poor posture, stiffness and tension headaches, but these stretches will increase flexibility in the neck. To begin, stand or sit up tall. Bring your chin to your chest and then return back to looking straight ahead. Tilt your head to the right and then over to the left. Extend your neck back to look upwards. Return to center and then do half-circles by bringing your chin back to your chest and rolling slowly from side to side.
Finish the exercise sequence with shoulder shrugs to release shoulder tension. Elevate first your left shoulder up toward your ear and release it down, then raise your right shoulder in the same manner. Bring both shoulders up and drop them down to complete the exercise.
Wind Relieving Pose
The wind relieving pose in yoga stretches your back all the way from your lumbar spine up your neck. It is called the wind relieving pose because it can expel excess gas from the body. To begin, lie face up on the floor. Extend both legs straight and point your toes at the ceiling. Bend your left knee in toward your chest, clasp your hands below the knee and bring your forehead to your knee by raising your chest off the floor. Lower back down and repeat by raising your right knee. The proper Sanskrit name of this pose is Pavanmuktasana.