What are the best neck stretches for headaches?

Headaches are common for a lot of people in our modern world. Often, headaches almost seem unavoidable due to tightness in the neck or sitting at the desk for too long. This article will discuss why neck stretches for headaches can be helpful.

Table of Contents

What does stretching the neck do and why does it help with headaches?

Headaches have many causes including:

  • Eyestrain
  • Dehydration
  • Neck pain
  • Jaw pain

The headaches we are looking at today are headaches stemming from tightness in the neck.

Stretching reduces the tightness in your muscles decreasing muscular pain and irritated nerves.

This nerve irritation occurs at the top of your neck. This causes typical neck-based headaches or ‘cervicogenic headaches’.

Headache-focused neck stretches done with intention will help relax the muscles at the top of your neck. This reduces or even gets rid of your associated headaches.


Can neck stretches for headaches fix the underlying problem?

Depending on the underlying causes, neck stretching for headaches can be very effective.

At MPR Health we see people that can have two main underlying causes of their neck pain and headaches:

  1. tightness in the muscles and joints,

  2. work based repetitive strain.

Tightness in the muscles and joints is the most common cause of neck pain and headaches that we see here at MPR Health.

The root of this tightness can be unique to you but neck stretches for headaches and stiffness are very effective. Combined alongside osteopathic treatment it can manage the root causes and symptoms.

Environmental strain and repetitive work environments can cause headaches in many ways. Often we see patients that sit at desks most of the day and their posture, sitting position and eye strain are all contributing to their headaches.

neck stretches for headaches

Our 3 favourite neck stretches for headaches

It is important to discuss with your practitioner what neck stretches are right for you. Neck stretches can be effective in relaxing muscle tightness causing headaches. But, when done ays can worsen the pain and headaches you’re experiencing. Let’s look at our 3 favourite stretches:


1. Head in the sand (concentrates on the muscle running up your neck and the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull)
Step 1: Interlace your fingers and cup the back of your skull
Step 2: Stretch your neck as far as comfortable into flexion, pulling a bit more with your hands to add light traction to the top of your neck
Step 3: Try to sit up and extend a little through your spine, this will increase the stretch even more!

Video here


2. The smelly armpit (focuses on the upper trapezius and muscles running up your neck)
Step 1: Sit on your left hand, tlt your head (and nose) down to your right armpit, place your right hand over your head and cup the back of your skull.
Step 2: Lean towards the right with your torso adding tension to your left trapezius whilst pulling your neck further into your armpit with your right hand.

Video here


3. Ahh that’s the spot! (Concentrates on the suboccipital muscles)
Step 1: Same as “Head in the sand”
Step 2: Same as “Head in the sand”
Step 3: When you can feel a stretch in the base of the skull, add a little bit of sidebending by tilting your head slightly to the side. This will focus and increase the stretch on one side of the suboccipital muscle and really hit the tight spot that is likely leading to your headaches

As per video 1 with a few alterations!


Neck stretches for headaches can lend a hand with aches and pains. Although they don’t treat the root cause, stretching the neck for headache relief is something we love for our patients to know.

Talk to one of our practitioners at MPR Health today. See if neck stretches could help your headaches and get you on the path to being in control of your pain and headaches.

We're ready when you are

Our North Shore Osteopaths are here to help you with your pain so you can get back to living your best life without worrying about pain.

What is Osteopathy?

What Can I Expect?

How do I book?

north shore osteopath

In the spirit of reconciliation, MPR Health acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.


Opening Hours

Fully registered