This week (5-11 September) is Migraine Awareness Week! We hear from Rachel Gilman at stretch inc. who shares the best stretches to relieve tension in the neck, back, shoulders and head and prevent migraine attacks…
Did you know, tension in the neck, shoulder and back muscles can trigger migraine attacks? In our modern lifestyles, many of us experience neck and back pain daily, from sitting at desks or craning our necks to view a phone or tablet.
While many of our jobs require us to stay in the same position all day, it’s important to take regular breaks, during which you should move around and stretch to release any tension and avoid a migraine attack.
Which muscles are linked to migraines?
When stretching, you should focus on releasing the neck, shoulders and upper back. Rachel Gilman at stretch inc. explains: ‘Specifically, you should focus on the suboccipital muscles. These are the four small muscles at the cervical spine or where your head and spine connect. When these are tense they can trigger headaches and lessen neck mobility.
‘Certain positions like working at a desk, reading, or looking at a phone can aggravate the suboccipital muscles. But other things like sports, how you sleep, and your posture could also impact them.’
With this in mind, Rachel recommends the following three stretches for relieving tension in these muscles to prevent migraine attacks…
4 stretches to try for migraine relief
1. Upper trap stretch
Sit up straight, and roll the shoulders down the back. Tilt your head to one side and keep your head over your shoulder and the shoulder down. You should feel a stretch on the elongated side of your neck. Increase the stretch by gently pulling your head closer to your shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.
2. Chin tuck
Sit up straight, bring your chin down towards your chest. You should feel a slight pull along the back of your neck.
Increase the stretch with gentle pressure at the base of your head or add lateral bending, and/or rotation. Hold the chin tuck for 15-30 seconds.
3. Shoulder squeezes
Sit up straight and with a relaxed neck, squeeze your shoulder blades together, hold 2-5 seconds and release. Repeat 15 to 20 times.
4. Eagle Arms
Extend your arms in front of you, palms facing down. Cross the right arm under the left. Keeping your elbows as close together as possible, bend the elbows, fingers pointing up and bring the backs of the hand to meet. If this is too much don’t worry, just stay where you are.
If you want to go deeper, take the palms further by working them into prayer without moving your elbows. Wherever you are with this slowly raise the elbows in line with your chin. Don’t hold your breath.
Top tips on performing these stretches:
When performing these stretches, you should take your time and relax. Rachel explains: ‘Stretching is a moment to tune into your body, slow down your mind, and take a few deep breaths. A few minutes of stretching could relieve muscle tension, lower your heart rate and provide a short break from chronic stress and help reduce headaches. Over a sustained period, stretching can help reduce pain, increase range of motion and lessen anxiety.’