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Health & Wellness

Evidence Based

How To Relieve Neck Tension & Headaches (+Causes)

Written by Liz Brown

Don’t let a tension headache keep you from doing the things you love! Here are 5 tips to relieve neck tension & prevent tension headaches for good.

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by neck tension or tension headaches?! 🙋

Tension headaches are one of the most common types of headaches and it is estimated that about 80-90% of the population suffer from tension headaches at some point in their lifetime [1]. A tension headache (also known as stress headaches) is a mild to moderate dull pain around the entire areas of your head. 

If you’re one of the 10% of the population that has never experienced a tension headache before, well, it kind of feels like there is a tight band around your head. Similar to the feeling you get when you keep your hair tie in for too long… but on a grander scale and somehow feels like it will last for eternity 😖.

There are several factors that can cause a tension headache and one of the most common triggers is stress. The effects of stress are most often felt in the neck: from the base of the skull to the top of your shoulders. Your neck can easily become the epicenter of pain and tension as stress accumulates and can turn into a tension headache faster than it takes a girl to untag herself in an unflattering instagram photo.

Once you understand how to get rid of tension headaches and relieve neck tension, you can prevent them from becoming a chronic issue.

neck tension

Symptoms Of A Tension Headache

  1. Dull, aching pain in your head
  2. Tightness across your forehead or along the sides and back of your head
  3. Tender scalp, neck or shoulders
  4. Sore muscles around the neck, face, and head

Causes of Neck Tension & Tension Headaches

1. Stress

According the American Psychological Association (APA), stress is up! Studies show that most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, with 44% reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years [2]. When you are under stress your body sends you a lot of signals.

Unfortunately, tension headaches can be a sign that you need to relax. I know, easier said than done, right? How can a person possibly relax when they have an aching pain in their neck? And when you think about stress, you get more stressed! Who knew that stressing about stress was actually a thing! 🤷‍

2. Poor posture

Let’s face it, we live in a society where the majority of the population spends most of their day sitting and this excessive couch-potato-ness is affecting our posture! In evolutionary terms, we are kind of moving backwards. 

One of the most common posture issues that contributes to neck pain is forward head and shoulder posture. Forward head posture is when the neck slants forward pushing the head in front of the shoulders. This is often seen in people who have an office job where they are frequently looking at their computers or writing. You might be more prone to neck and shoulder pain if your desk area is not set up ergonomically also.

evolution of posture

3. Grinding your teeth/clenching your jaw

According to The Bruxism Association, people who grind their teeth are three times more likely to experience headaches [3]. Bruxism is the scientific term for teeth grinding and any other teeth clenching issues involving the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). When you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, you are capable of putting up to 250 lbs of force on the TMJ [4]. It’s no wonder it causes headaches!

4. Poor diet

A poor diet is often associated with tension headaches. Alcohol, low magnesium/folate, toxicity, getting too few of calories, and dehydration are all factors that can contribute to tension headaches.

5. Lack of exercise

Being sedentary for too long can have a negative effect on your mobility. Exercise is positive stress on the body and when you exercise, it helps the synovial fluid flow throughout your joints. Synovial fluid acts as a lubricant for your joints helping you move effortlessly and without pain. As you become less active, you might experience tension in the neck due to immobility.

How To Relieve Neck Tension And Prevent Tension Headaches


Although most tension headaches will subside over time, there are some things you can do to relieve neck tension and prevent tension headaches in the future. Treating neck tension and tension headaches is often a balance between adopting healthier habits, implementing natural remedies, and using medications appropriately.

1. Neck stretches

As a personal trainer, an overwhelming majority of my clients have suffered from neck tension and stress headaches. These are a few neck stretches you can do throughout the day (I highly recommend these stretches first thing in the morning, mid-afternoon, and before you go to bed at night. You may also want to check out these simple yoga poses that can boost relaxation.

stretches to relieve neck tension

2. Drink SkinnyFit ZzzTox

There are many natural remedies that have been shown to ease tension headaches and neck tension. A caffeine-free blend of herbal tea, such as SkinnyFit ZzzTox, will help your mind and body relax, release unwanted toxins, and help you get better quality sleep so you stress less throughout the day.

3. Essential oils

Essential oils are the highly concentrated version of the natural oils found in plants. The most common use is through aromatherapy. Oils like lavender, rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, jasmine, and eucalyptus are all known to relieve stress, anxiety, and stress-related headaches. Peppermint oil has also been shown to reduce the pain of tension headaches and migraines! You can use essential oils in an oil diffuser, or directly on your skin (wrists, temples, neck, & chest).

4. Make healthier choices

When it comes to preventing headaches, taking care of yourself from the inside out is great place to start.

  1. Make sure to get enough, but not too much, sleep. Drinking SkinnyFit ZzzTox before bed aids in better quality sleep!
  2. Don’t smoke
  3. Exercise regularly 
  4. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water
  5. Limit your alcohol, caffeine, and sugar intake.  
  6. Spend time outside and get some fresh air

5. Make time for fun!

When you are constantly worried about work, money, bills, family problems, etc. you are more likely to stress out and develop neck tension and tension headaches. So, try and schedule some downtime where you can relax and have some fun! Laughter truly is the best medicine!

About The Author

Liz Brown

Fitness & Nutrition Expert (CPT., FNS.)

Liz is a health & wellness expert, writer, and editor with over a decade of experience in the fitness & nutrition industry. She emphasizes research and simplifies complex topics to help make healthy living simple and sustainable. When she isn't researching and writing, she's sharing delicious recipes, easy DIYs, and home decor tips on her blog and social media.

More from Liz, visit: Personal Blog, TikTok, Instagram

Credentials

  • NASM Certified Personal Trainer(since 2012)
  • NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist (since 2014)
  • Credentialed Coach Practitioner, Coach Training Academy
  • B.A. Liberal Studies (Health & Nutrition Sciences)
  • A.A. Liberal Arts (STEM)

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