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Do you suffer with tension headaches?

Many of us will have experienced a tension headache at some point in our life. It is very common and can make you feel tired, irritable and can make concentrating on simple every day tasks difficult.

What is the cause for tension headaches?

There may not be one single primary cause for your headache. Some people may have the headaches quite infrequently whilst for others the headache may persist for a number of days/weeks.


postural pain

Yes we have all heard this before and we are all guilty of slouching. It is when we persistently adopt poor sitting and standing postures that we can begin to have problems and experience pain.

Poor posture places a lot of stress on the muscles in our neck and shoulders. This increased postural stress causes the muscles to become tight. This in turn compresses the small capillaries which deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles in the blood. Pain can begin to arise as waste products and chemical toxins build up in the muscle.


muscle tension

We would all welcome less stress. Unfortunately it is becoming an inherent part of our daily lives with increasing working hours and juggling everything in order to achieve the right work-to-life balance.

Stress causes our body to release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol increases muscle tension and is normally released as part of the fight or flight response.  Stress also causes adaptive posture such as hunched shoulders, facial frowning and gritting our teeth which places more demand on our neck and shoulder muscles. Excessive tension in the muscles in our neck and shoulders can cause tension headaches.

It may not always be practical to remove ourselves immediately from a stressful situation but we can do something after the event. Try and find something that relaxes you and that you enjoy doing away from the stresses of life.

Exercise is a great way to combat stress in our lives.  It is really important to choose an activity that you enjoy to do. You don’t want to get more stressed thinking about having to do an activity that you will find a chore to do and not enjoy! Physical activity be it a brisk wall, cycling, sport or going to the gym causes the body to release endorphins – this is your happy juice and will reduce the stress hormones in your body.

Self help treatments for tension headache:

headache treatment


  • Apply heat pack to the neck and shoulder region for about 20 minutes. This will help to relax the muscles, dilate the blood vessels and help deliver much needed blood and nutrients to the muscles.
  • Practice good posture (enough said already!)
  • Apply pressure to the painful trigger points in the muscles with the aid of a tennis ball (see picture above). Lie on the tennis ball or place it in the painful area and push yourself up against a wall. You can gently move your body to allow the tennis ball to help massage and break up the adhesions in the muscle. Also sustaining the pressure of the tennis ball over the painful area for up to 90 seconds can induce the muscle to relax.
  • Apply pressure to the area shown here just underneath the base of the skull. You can sustain the pressure or use circular a motion.headache treatment physiotherapy
  • Consider booking in with us for a deep tissue massage. Let us work out the areas of tension in the muscles and give you some bespoke exercises to do.

Other causes for headaches:

Many Questions(2)

We would always recommend that you see your GP if your headaches have persisted and haven’t reduced or resolved with the simple measures we have stated here. Not all headaches are caused by a build-up of tension in our muscles. Some can be caused by other factors such as hormone imbalance, chemical changes in the body and pathological causes. If you notice that you have also been feeling generally unwell or have other associated symptoms such as pain in the face, jaw or pain in the arms please do seek medical advice.


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