Top 7 Expert-Approved Neck Stretches To Alleviate Headaches

Are you suffering persistent headaches and searching for some natural relief? Ever considered the power of neck stretches for headaches? You’re not alone! Headaches, often a nasty byproduct of our modern, fast-paced lifestyle, can frequently stem from neck tension. With so many of us spending countless hours bent over keyboards or smartphones, our necks and shoulders become as taut as a kangaroo’s hind legs.

Now, what if we told you that, like finding a cool waterhole in the blistering Outback, there’s a way to relieve the throbbing pain? That’s right! With these expert-approved neck stretches, you can say ‘hoo-roo’ to those headaches. Not only will these exercises offer immediate relief, but they’ll also empower you with self-care tools for the long haul. Intrigued? Fancy a bit of a yarn about it? Then, let’s dive into the heart of our guide, designed with the wisdom of age-old dreamtime stories and backed by modern health practices.

7 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 wrong, it can worsen the pain and headaches you’re experiencing.

1. The Suboccipital Stretches

  1. First, find yourself a comfortable spot on the floor, and stretch your legs out in front of you like a kangaroo sunning itself.
  2. Next, place your hands behind your head as if you’re about to dive into a cool billabong. Your fingers should be interlocked.
  3. Now, gently guide your head forward till your chin’s resting on your chest. Picture a kookaburra bowing its head. Feel that stretch at the back of your neck? That’s the sweet spot! Hold it for about half a minute.
  4. Then let yourself relax before doing it again, like a cycle of the tide. Aim for 2-3 repeats.


Fancy doing it standing? No worries, you can do the same while upright!

2. Trapezius Tamer

  1. Start by sitting down, and legs bent in front like you’re about to start a didgeridoo session.
  2. Now, pretend your therapy ball is a precious opal and hold it in your right hand. Lie down and position it behind your left shoulder, just where you’d sling a backpack.
  3. Stretch your left arm flat on the ground, in a goalpost shape, while your right arm is extended beside you. Prop yourself up a bit to balance on the ball.
  4. Now comes the fun part! Imagine you’re a joey reaching for a leafy branch. Inhale and stretch your left arm over your head, pushing your left rib cage and hip out a touch, which helps move the ball down your back.
  5. Exhale and bring everything back to the starting point, like a boomerang. Switch sides after you’ve done your reps.


Too much pressure? Standing against a wall works just as well!

3. Side-to-Side Sways

  1. Begin this one standing or sitting up straight like an emu on alert.
  2. Then, lean your head to the left, trying to touch your shoulder with your ear. Hold this for about 30 seconds, like a slow blink of a wombat.
  3. Repeat on the other side, like swaying gum branches in a breeze.
  4. Amp up the stretch by dropping the opposite shoulder as you tilt your head.

This video below will show you how to do side-to-side sways.

4. Scalene Stretch

  1. Start this exercise standing or sitting up straight. Imagine you’re a proud kangaroo surveying the Outback.
  2. Gently lean towards your right shoulder, as far as it feels good, like a cockatoo peering around.
  3. Next, slowly turn your head to the left, as if you’re checking out a friend who just called your name.
  4. Finally, lift your chin just a smidgen, creating a stretch under the left side of your neck. Imagine you’re sniffing the delicious aroma of a meat pie.
  5. Hold this position for half a minute, like taking a moment to appreciate the sunset.
  6. Return to the start and repeat on the other side. Take it easy, like walking in the bush. If it hurts, ease off.

5. Levator Scapulae Stretch (The Smelly Armpit)

This stretch focuses on the upper trapezius and muscles running up your neck.

  1. Grab a seat, and let your shoulders relax like a koala in a eucalyptus tree.
  2. Turn your head 45 degrees to one side as if you’re looking for a goanna. Tuck your chin down towards your chest like you’re inspecting your favorite Akubra hat.
  3. Using your arm on the same side, pull your head gently down to deepen the stretch.
  4. Hold this pose for about 10 – 30 seconds, like savoring a bite of Vegemite toast.
  5. Switch to the other side and repeat.

6. Head in the sand

This stretch concentrates on the muscle running up your neck and the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull.

  1. Interlace your fingers and cup the back of your skull
  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
  3. Try to sit up and extend a little through your spine. This will increase the stretch even more!

7. Ahh, that’s the spot!

This stretch concentrates on the suboccipital muscles.

  1. Interlace your fingers and cup the back of your skull.
  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.
  3. When you can feel a stretch at the base of the skull, add a little bit of side bending by tilting your head slightly to the side.
  4. This will focus and increase the stretch on one side of the suboccipital muscle and hit the tight spot, likely leading to your headaches.

Remember, these stretches aren’t about going full pelt. It’s more like taking a gentle stroll around Uluru. Bouncing about could lead to a crook neck, and we don’t want that! Give these a go regularly, and you’ll hopefully see those headaches make like a tree and leave.

Consistency, the Silent Champion

Incorporating these seven stretches into your routine is like investing in good quality swag – it’ll serve you well for a long time. Make it a habit, and your body will thank you.

How Does Neck Stretching Help Relieve Headaches?

Headaches have many causes, including:

  • Eyestrain
  • Dehydration
  • Neck pain
  • Jaw pain

The headaches we commonly see in our patients stem 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 with the intention will help relax the muscles at the top of your neck. This reduces or even gets rid of your associated headaches.

Unraveling the Root Cause

Headaches aren’t just about the twinge in your neck or the drumming in your head. Factors like your work environment, the pressure of deadlines, and how you hold yourself can turn into a right pain in the neck.

Even something as simple as squinting at your computer screen can spark off those niggling tension headaches. Recognising your individual triggers and keeping a balanced lifestyle is like having your very own roadmap to relief.

Do neck stretches fix the underlying cause of headaches?

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:

  • tightness in the muscles and joints,
  • 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, 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, seating position, and eye strain all contribute to their headaches.

The Long-Term Benefits of Neck Stretches for Headaches

Neck stretches for headaches offer more than just immediate relief. They equip you with a self-care tool you can use to manage your symptoms anywhere, anytime. While they may not resolve the root cause entirely, their continued application can contribute significantly to long-term symptom management.

Tweaking Your Lifestyle

Not all heroes wear capes. Sometimes, they do regular exercise, adjust their work setup, and manage their stress levels. A few changes to your everyday habits, like standing tall, taking breaks at work, and keeping a balanced diet, can be your secret weapon against tension headaches.

Professional Guidance and Therapies

While you can do a fair bit of self-care, sometimes it’s a job for the pros. Consider health professionals like an osteopath and remedial massage therapists as your top-notch support crew. They can offer individualised treatments like osteopathic care or a soothing massage. Persisting pain is a clear call to action. Don’t hesitate to book an appointment when the pain plays hard to get.

When It’s Time for a Medical Assistance

These stretches are handy as a pocket on a shirt but don’t replace professional medical advice. Don’t ignore signs like a stiff neck, sudden severe headache, or any headache coming with fever, nausea, or vomiting. Get on the blower and seek immediate medical help. That could be your body signalling something more serious.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, it’s all about returning to your roots, just like a gum tree soaking up the good old Aussie sun. These expert-endorsed neck stretches are an incredible tool to combat headaches. They provide not just immediate relief but also instil in you a habit of self-care, which can make a significant difference in the long haul. Not to mention, these stretches act as a practical, natural remedy, ready to bring relief wherever and whenever you need it.

But let’s not forget! While these exercises are helpful, they are just part of the picture. Complementing these stretches with a healthy lifestyle, correct posture, and professional guidance is equally important. Persisting pain is not something to be taken lightly. So, if your headache is as stubborn as a mule, don’t wait. Get on the blower and seek medical advice immediately. After all, your health is your wealth and worth more than all the gold nuggets in Kalgoorlie!