Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and are caused by muscle tension. Symptoms are often characterised as a dull ache or the feeling of pressure on both sides of the head and are sometimes associated with upper neck pain.


The suboccipital muscles, sternocleidomastoid muscles and trapezius muscles run from the base of the skull, the upper neck and the shoulders. When these muscles become tight and contracted, they may compress the nerves or blood vessels in the head and neck, increasing the pressure. This can result in a dull aching pain in the head and upper neck. This increased pressure may also cause referred pain in which there may be pain around the forehead, temples and eyes.


The symptoms of Tension Headaches can in extreme cases be debilitating. Some of the symptoms can include:

  • Pain on both sides of the head
  • Dull aching head pain
  • Feeling of built up pressure in the head
  • Tightness across forehead
  • Neck ache/pain
  • Tenderness of the scalp, neck and shoulders


The specific causes of tension headaches are still unclear. Tension headaches are caused by tight, contracted neck muscles and are commonly linked to stress, poor posture, head injury and anxiety. Tension headaches are often linked to running in families and are more common in females.


Tension headaches are diagnosed by reported symptoms. A full medical exam including other tests may be ran by the GP to rule out any other conditions. Tension headaches can be diagnosed by a discussion with a healthcare professional regarding experienced symptoms.


Over the counter painkillers may help relieve pain caused by a tension headache. Heatpacks and gentle stretching may also help relieve symptoms. In some cases stronger medication may be prescribed by the GP for chronic tension headaches.

Sports therapy, physiotherapy and massages can be an excellent treatment for tension headaches. The treatment of the underlying muscle tightness can relieve pressure and consequently reduce symptoms. Treatment sessions may include massage, stretching and mobilisation as well as postural strengthening and advice and education to help reduce symptoms and pain experienced.


1) Chin Tucks : 3 – 5 second hold (20-30 reps)

2) Cervical Rotation Stretch : 20 second hold (x3 each side)

3) Upper Trapezius Stretch : 20 second hold (x3 each side)

4) Scapula Pinches : 3 sets of 10-20 reps


Due to the nature of our lives and the fact tension headaches can come on through a variety of issues. Some of which are part of our day to day life, such as looking down to your phone, working at a computer/desk, performing certain exercises at gym or just generally feeling stressed from work/life etc.

The good news is with the stretches above, if done regularly, it can prevent the onset of tension headaches. Regular deep tissue massages can also help and trying to take time to de-stress and in some cases meditation/yoga type exercises will also help.

It is important, to slow down and take time for yourself.

If you feel like you are struggling with tension headaches and would like some more advice then please contact us directly, alternatively if you feel a professional massage will help then please make a booking today.