Stretches and Exercises for Headaches

How common are headaches?

According to the Cleveland Clinic:

"Headaches are one of the most common pain conditions in the world. Up to 75% of adults worldwide have had a headache in the past year. Headaches are a major cause of absenteeism from work and school."


"There are more than 150 types of headaches (WHAT!!!). They fall into two main categories: primary and secondary headaches.

Primary headaches are those that aren’t due to another medical condition. The category includes:

  • Cluster headaches.
  • Migraine.
  • New daily persistent headaches (NDPH).
  • Tension headaches.

Secondary headaches are related to another medical condition, such as:

  • Disease of blood vessels in the brain.
  • Head injury.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Infection.
  • Medication overuse.
  • Sinus congestion.
  • Trauma.
  • Tumor.

Headaches have a tendency to run in families, especially migraines. Children who have migraines usually have at least one parent who also suffers from them. In fact, kids whose parents have migraines are up to four times more likely to develop them too.

Headaches can also be triggered by environmental factors shared in a family’s household, such as:

  • Eating certain foods or ingredients, like caffeine, alcohol, fermented foods, chocolate and cheese.
  • Exposure to allergens.
  • Secondhand smoke.
  • Strong odors from household chemicals or perfumes.

What is the root cause of headaches? It's basically unknown. And in terms of management and prevention, the most common forms of advice include avoid triggers and manage with pain medications. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Headaches

There are a number of yoga poses that are designated to help with headaches. But at Bendable Body our stretches overlap with Traditional Chinese Medicine and the meridian system. So we often recommend specific stretches to help with specific physiological conditions. Headaches are no different.

When clients come to us with headache problems or because they are suffering from migraines, we sometimes find that they have tension in their neck and shoulders or neck pain. 

Sometimes it's just headaches in isolation and they don't have neck issues. 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Gall Bladder Meridian is associated with headaches and migraines. The meridian itself is the longest and a big portion of it runs back and forth in the head... so if there is stagnation in that meridian it follows that it will cause pain in the head. Furthermore, there is an association with digesting fat properly and eating good fats and headaches. The Gall Bladder organ is of course responsible for this in the body. So if you increase the health of the Gall Bladder organ and open up the Gall Bladder meridian channel by doing Bendable Body stretches with resistance for the IT band - which is the primary muscle group associated with the Gall Bladder meridian... you will reduce and and perhaps even get rid of your headaches. 

People often ask is it ok to exercise or stretch with a headache? When you are in the throws of one, it can be really hard to do much of anything, except lay quietly in the dark and try and sleep. Depending on the severity of your headache, you can certainly try and do some Gall Bladder stretches while it's happening. Be gentle and just do as much as feels good to you. How to do it is subjective in the sense that you have to listen to how you are feeling and what your capacity is at the moment. And if you are wondering, 'does it help' the answer is yes! You just have to be consistent and stretch you IT band regularly, and not just when you feel a headache coming on. The trick is to get that tissue healthy and free of dense fascia so that meridian channel and organ can function optimally and you can get rid of your symptom (headaches) for good! 

There's one more stretch we recommend to help with headaches and that's because it helps with neck pain and also because it is associated with pressure in the body - which is the word often used to describe a headache. And that is the Large Intestine muscle group and meridian - that runs along the top of the shoulders. But don't take our word for it, give these stretches a try and what happens. Remember: you have to be consistent! 

Watch this video and learn 2 stretches for headaches:

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