This 20 minute stretching routine could fix your tension headache

This no equipment stretch session can help reduce neck and back pain from sitting at your desk – and studies suggest it might be good for tension headaches, too

Woman practicing yoga on chair
(Image credit: Getty)

Sitting at your desk all day can cause a lot of tension in the body and lead to neck and back pain, but a stretch session is a great way to counteract this.

And stretching doesn’t always need to be on the best yoga mats (opens in new tab), as personal trainer Shona Vertue shows us with this easy chair-based stretching workout. 

Vertue, who is an ex-gymnast and yoga teacher with over 400K followers on Instagram, takes us through a sequence you can do at your desk with no yoga mat, no equipment and even in your work clothes.

Introducing the routine, she says: “This sequence is designed to give you some space from stress you might be experiencing at work but also the tension that can start to come up in our body when we’re sitting in the same position for a long time.”

This workout will release tension and tightness in your neck, shoulders, hips (front and back) and provide a cognitive break from your work. It could relieve your next tension headache, too, as the sequence features some chin retractions. Research (opens in new tab) has shown that doing this kind of movement regularly, and flexing the deep cervical muscles around the neck, could improve this particular kind of pain.

Here's how to do the full routine. 

Watch Shone Vertue's stretching routine

Sitting for long periods of time can make our muscles stiff and lead to aches and pains, but stretching can reduce tightness and also improve our range of motion. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing flexibility exercises at least two to three times a week.

Regular stretching helps to keep muscles long, lean and flexible and the healthier your muscles are, the better your balance will be to avoid falls. 

If you’re interested in more exercises to boost your flexibility, don’t miss our guide to yoga for shoulder mobility and strength (opens in new tab) or try this seated yoga flow (opens in new tab)

Picking up one of the best foam rollers (opens in new tab) is also an excellent way to improve your range of motion; a huge review of studies, published in Frontiers in Physiology (opens in new tab), showed that pre-rolling before a workout is also an effective way of improving flexibility.

Maddy is a freelance journalist and Level 3 personal trainer specializing in fitness, health and wellbeing content. She has been a writer and editor for 22 years, and has worked for some of the UK's bestselling newspapers and women’s magazines, including Marie Claire, The Sunday Times and Closer. She also manages Fit&Well's Instagram account.


Maddy loves HIIT training and can often be found running on her treadmill or working out while her two young daughters do matching burpees or star jumps. As a massive foodie, she loves cooking and trying out new healthy recipes (especially ones with hidden vegetables so the kids eat them). She makes a mean margarita and has twice won awards in previous staff jobs as the “office feeder”.