Blog Image about Relief from Sub Occipital Pain – Effective Solutions with Manual Technique (1)

Effective Solutions of Sub Occipital Pain with Manual Techniques

Suboccipital pain is a common type of chronic neck pain. It affects millions of people around the world, which makes it one of the most common types of neck pain. 

Even though the primary cause of this type of pain is unknown, there are effective treatment options that can help relieve the symptoms. 

If you’re reading this article, it’s probably because you already know something needs to change in your life and that you’ve tried everything else. 

There are so many reasons why we need to take action against suboccipital pain – not only for our health but for our well-being as individuals too. 

What is Suboccipital Pain? 

x-ray visual of sub occipital pain of a man

It is a condition that is commonly caused by tightness in the muscles and connective tissues around the base of the skull. 

It can also be caused by compression of the nerves in this area. This condition can be very debilitating and cause a great deal of pain.

Causes of Suboccipital Pain

The suboccipital muscles attached to your occiput can be tender and sore if you sit at a desk or in front of a computer for long periods of time. It is common for people who sit for long periods of time to develop tension headaches. These muscles help to keep the head in place and prevent cervical vertebrae misalignments.

  • Prolonged tilting of head especially while working at the desk or when reading
  • Prolonged tilting of the head backwards or on the side especially when you are tucking a phone between ear and shoulder , when watching a screen located to your side, when the person you are talking to sits next to you, when doing painting jobs or when climbing
  • Cold draught which happens when your muscles are tired and got shortened for a longer time and you got exposed to cold draught (I suggest you put a scarf around your neck to avoid this)

Manual Techniques Never Seen for Reduced Neck Range of Motion that may Create Pain

1. Sub Occipital Pain Midfoot  Massive Supination

Asian woman doing to put a lock on the hindfoot sub occipital pain

You'll probably see this with a lot of clients that you'll have one foot that's got massive supination and the other one that's not as supinated. 

Now there are a couple of ways we can address that we can have a look to see if it's the midfoot, the cuboid muscle that is cuboid bone, that has been locked up. 

That's because of the torque or the pull between the tibialis anterior and the perennials that share in a common attachment point of the midfoot. 

Their action is to draw up that foot arch, we can have some jointly restrictions going on with the navicular head and the talus bones. It can be either of these structures that creates a problem, let’s assess in this video.

Let me demonstrate how I've achieved amazing results from it.

  • Put a lock on the hindfoot, and then put your hands on the forefoot that is free floating.
  • Move it back and forth to see if we are able to unlock the intercuneiform joints. Occasionally you feel a click from the action or, sometimes, you'll hear the click. This is NOT high velocity thrusts but simply the joint moving over surrounding bones or a nitrogen bubble release.
  • Then move to the second point. Feel if the navicular or talus bones are sitting just a bit more anterior-lateral than normal. 
  • Both thumbs on the bone/s, rock the ankle into some dorsiflexion for about 30 seconds, while they notice any pain and/or stiffness. It can be quite uncomfortable.

2. Sub Occipital Pain Recurring tightness in Upper Cervical Muscles or (suboccipital muscles)

x-ray visual of sub occipital pain of a woman

Are you a practitioner with clients or patients who come to see you who have constant tightness in their lower cervical muscles, specifically the ones that run along the deeper gutter of the neck, and attached to the base of the skull? 

They're referred to as our suboccipital muscles. These are the muscles that our patients often say are very tight. Comments like “It doesn't matter how much I try it doesn't seem to help the tightness”

In the long run, we are able to do lots of work with neuromuscular techniques. 

We can use exercises to increase muscle energy as well as glides, and we can also do joint capsule mobilization, however this is more universal and something I've seen in my clinic that's gained a bit longer duration for both the patient and the client. 

Following the patient's evaluation of the cervical movement.

Let me demonstrate how I've seen amazing results from it.

  • Ask the patient to go through upper cervical ranges. They will chin poke and chin tuck; trickier to do so I ask them to make a double chin. 
  • They will lie in supine, you'll need to feel your hands descending to the table, and your neck feels as if it's lying flat in front of the pillow. 
  • Have them bend their knees and put their feet flat, creating the bridging motion by elevating the buttocks off the table. They are asked to activate the gluteus maximus, which are those massive bionics power drivers to lift the pelvis and hips off the table. 
  • We can experience some beautiful stretches all the way to that thecal area, and coming down the full line of the spine
  • When we get them into a sustained bridge we then increase the pull at the top of this line by adding a pull or drag on the occipital ridge. We are pulling the neck into flexed traction and it works brilliantly for giving extra stretch and length in resting to the back fascial lines of the body.
  • Apply 3 times before you reassess.

3.  Sub Occipital Pain Severe Lateral Cervical Tenderness

Severe Lateral Cervical Tenderness of a man sub occipital pain

I've been seeing clients coming with really restricted neck ranges and quite extreme cervical tenderness on the lateral side. 

It is possible to perform a lot of work on the neck. However, what we really need to do is to discover how we can assist those clients with homework maintenance. 

We also need to assess so we can get a more detailed look at the things taking place that require change. 

This treatment always occurs after conducting an assessment on the client.

Let me demonstrate how I've seen amazing results from it.

  • Check the ranges of movement through flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion. Note before and after ranges.
  • We are addressing the deep and superficial arm lines of the anatomy trains. We look at the links between the entire pathway from neck, shoulder, arm, wrist and hand. This is important because a break in the continuity of any of these will make myofascial pain changes to the patient.
  • If there is restriction in the neck, I will move my attention to the hand and to the finger webbing. This may sound odd but I want you to check your necks and webbing and see if you can’t notice a correlation between tenderness and reduced neck movements.
  • Apply a lubricant rather than oil to your fingers. Oil is too slippery and will not give enough grip as you glide proximal to distal between the MCP joints.
  • Make sure that the patient relaxes their arm. Apply your thumb and fingers in the skin just below the MCP joints and then draw them through the webbing between the fingers and off.
  • Go through the web at least three or four times. After that, the same procedure through all the webs to pick up any tightness, tension or bound feelings between each finger knuckle to skin.
  • Do the same process to the other arm. 
  • Once complete, we will retest ROM and if there is a significant result then this will be part of the home care routine.

4. Trigger point therapy

This therapy involves applying pressure on specific muscles or bands within the muscle that create myofascial pain syndromes. 

These muscles seem to react well to triggering whether it be by compression, squeeze/flushing, acupressure or dry needling. 

Can must be used to confirm that it is the muscle you are addressing and not other neural tissue. 

Some patients love it though it can be quite painful during the application.

5. Massage

Massage is one of the most vague definitions in the dictionary for ways to relieve muscle tension. It includes glides, effleurage, kneading and should include techniques including NMT, MET, MFR. 

The old comments like “improve blood circulation” are no longer valid, nor is drinking water post a massage to remove toxins.

Probably the greatest value from receiving a massage is the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. The body calms to serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and more feel good chemicals aroused in the body. 

There is true value in this kind of relief, especially with clients under a lot of stress.


Stretching is another great way to relieve muscle tension and improve resting tone and active range of motion. There are many different stretching exercises that you can do at home or at work. 

Talk with your remedial therapist or exercise practitioner who will find ones that work best for you and do it regularly throughout the day. 

Remember to breathe deeply while stretching as this will also help relax your muscles.

These manual techniques can be helpful in treating this suboccipital pain and many other types of pain experienced in the body. 

If you’re not sure which techniques are right for you, consult with a qualified massage therapist who can help you choose the best option based on your individual needs.

I have found that these techniques are often very effective in relieving suboccipital pain. 

By applying techniques more distal to the neck can help to release tension in the muscles and tissues around the neck and head. 

This can often provide significant relief from pain and help to improve the range of motion. 

For a better understanding of these techniques please click on the link to the video below.


Watch This Video and Subscribe to Learn More!

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National Library of Medicine, BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2017 Published online 2017 Sep 5.Effectiveness of a specific manual approach to the suboccipital region in patients with chronic mechanical neck pain and rotation deficit in the upper cervical spine: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial

National Library of Medicine, Author Tom George; Prasanna Tadi, Update January 10, 2022. Anatomy, Head and Neck, Suboccipital Muscles

closed eyes woman cupping her neck with both hands

Neck and Shoulder Pain At Work? Try this!

Even before Covid, people have been prone to spending hours in front of a computer, either for work, school, or even just for entertainment. This is what we are going to fix here by doing some simple neck and shoulder exercises for office workers.  And when we’re in front of computers, we tend to disregard our posture. Most people who sit in front of their computers all day tend to lean their necks forward. Long periods in this position are bound to give referral pain patterns. It is important to do short exercises that will get them into neck extension.Before we even begin with exercises, there is an important thing to consider. The chairs that you or your patients use must be of the right height for the legs and back. It must have back support and elbow rests. This is important because often, an uncomfortable chair can affect our posture when we sit, which is one of the leading causes of neck and shoulder pain.

Step-by-Step Guide for the Neck and Shoulder Office Exercise

In this article, I will share with you a few easy exercises to check your range. It is important to see how comfortable you are when you go into flexion, extension, and rotation. These exercises (neck and shoulder office exercises) will help determine whether you feel any restrictions in your movement whatsoever.

For the neck:

  1. Sit up straight, slowly tilt your head forward, bringing your chin to the chest.
  2. From this position, slowly tilt your head upward, until you are looking at the ceiling.
  3. Return to the starting position, looking straight ahead.
  4. Turn your head gently to the left, then to the right. Return to the starting position.
  5. Lastly, slowly lower your head to your right shoulder. You should be able to do this at a 45-degree angle without any restrictions. The shoulders should not hitch up, and instead, remain still.
  6. Return to the starting position, and repeat, slowly tilting towards the left shoulder.

Arm ranges to check with adductions, abductions, and flexions:

  1. For the starting position, hold your arms out on both sides.
  2. Raise both hands up overhead. Repeat 5 times. this is to check elevation.
  3. Return to starting position. Then slowly swing your arms forward to check horizontal flexion. Repeat 5 times.
  4. Return to starting position, then stretch them backward to check extension. Pull your shoulders back as far you can. Repeat 5 times.
  5. Lastly, do figure of 8 movements.

For the elbows:

  1. Hold out your arms in front of you, palms up.
  2. Bend your elbows up towards you. Repeat this 5 times, then return to the starting position.
  3. Twist your arms outward gently. This is to test internal and external rotation.
  4. Lastly, try to do the figure of 8s movement with your elbows.

For the wrists and hands:

  1. You will start with the same starting position as the one from elbows. Bend your wrists upward five times.
  2. Then, move them from side to side.
  3. Lastly, do figure of 8 movements.
  4. Go back to starting position, then flip your hand over so that your palms are facing down.
  5. Bend your fingers 5 times.
  6. Then stretch them out, holding them apart from each other. Repeat this five times
  7. Lastly, try making piano movements with your fingers.

Another tip for your neck and shoulder office exercises

After these neck and shoulder office exercises, make them go through the neck ranges again, to see if they get any changes. Another tip I have today is to tuck the chin back into your neck. I always use the analogy of pretending that someone you really don’t like is coming up to you and is trying to give you a great big kiss on the chin. Naturally, you would be recoiling your head back.
  1. Tuck the chin in. This is the starting position.
  2. Hold your arms out to your sides, and then pull your shoulders back, like step 4 for the arm movements. hold for 10 seconds.
  3. Relax.
  4. Repeat it 5 more times.
I recommend doing these 2 to 3 times every day, as doing so will give you a lot more flexibility as well as reduce the pain in your neck and shoulders. For a demonstration of the movements, please watch the video.
both hands massaging man's neck

Target Platysma or Neck Pain Easily using this Method!

This is one of my 3 favourite muscle names in the body – it’s in your neck and it’s called the platysma!First of all, what is the platysma? It is a muscle that begins at the jawline, right at the mandible, and runs down in a fan shape to the superior portion of the clavicle. It is responsible for helping the mouth and lips to move. Specifically, it is the muscle that we use when we react with fear or fright – when our mouth is drawn down or to the side.

Image from Wikipedia

Many therapists miss out on getting the best outcomes because they overlook this little muscle. In fact, did you know that a lot of neck-related pain can be traced to the platysma? As therapists, 75% of people entering our clinic complain of either neck or lower back pain! If you are focusing your techniques at the back, which is quite often joint-related or soft tissue around the traps, splenius, etc, then can I ask you to try this simple technique on your next neck pain client?

I could go as far as to say unless we address the tightness in the platysma. We won't get full neck movement.

Your First Moves

First, you must assess your client’s neck range. From a relaxed, sitting position, have your client lookup or go into full neck extension. Watch and be vigilant on the lift to note any tightness of the anterior neck esp the flat band of the platysma. Have your clients return to neutral or as neutral as they can. This video will show you step by step how I teach the muscle and surrounding soft tissue via way of an active glide. This way both of you are working together. Plus, they are increasing their afferent and efferent nervous system. They will also increase their agonists and antagonists, and myofascial trains.

Active Glide

For therapists out there, when we do active movements, it means that both you and your client or patients are actually actively involved in the process.

1. Stand on the treating side, in this case, stand on the right and have the client turn their head to the right, as far as they can go comfortably. 2. Place two fingers or knuckles. If you have OA issues just above their right clavicle at the midline closest to the supraclavicular notch and sink into the tissues. The fingers will be facing out towards the AC joint on the superior line of the clavicle so that you can take up the tissue along with its attachments. 3. Have your client slowly rotate their head back towards the left as far as they can go comfortably. 4. As they move their head allow your fingers to glide along with their muscle. Work with a pace that mimics the speed of the rotation and at the tension of the hypertonic muscle/fascia. 5. I always apply any technique three times before I re-assess. NB* make sure you DO re-assess! 6. Repeat the same process on the other side.

The Results

As you’re doing this, it should feel “tight” and “stretchy” or “burny” to your clients – all signs of fascia, muscle, and/or tendon. Have your clients test their range again, by moving their heads up, down, and side to side. The results can be astronomical in pain management, posture, and range. You should be able to see the tissues are not as taut as this time around.

The beauty of this work is that you can offer it to clients as homecare.  This is an attempt to release any ongoing restrictions felt in the neck. This is another cool technique that adds value along with the other ways to assist in neck pain that we've discussed in earlier videos.

Have fun and hope this helps you and your clients in the future! 
self stretching for head to the left

Self-Stretching to Soothe Sore Neck Muscles Fast

Are you one of the many people CONTINUALLY complaining of neck pain?Have you ever wondered why you usually feel pain in your neck muscles and what you can do about it?Answer this “What Can I Do To Get RID of this DAMN pain?”Let’s first talk about why you might be having this issue in the first place, why EXACTLY is your neck sore??

Why is your neck sore?

People usually experience neck pain for several reasons. But most of the time, one feels pain or stiffness of their neck muscles due to poor posture or overusing your neck. Sometimes, a bad fall or an injury causes neck pain. In our industry, we say ‘misuse’, ‘disuse’, ‘abuse’ or ‘overuse’.Actually most of the time, the pain usually subsides if left for a few days, the body simply self-heals. Neck pains lasting for more than a week needs some serious attention. Especially if accompanied by other symptoms which might include burning pain down the arms, weakness of the muscles of the neck and arms, severe headaches, etc. You should consult a doctor or therapist for further investigation and treatment.But if you feel that your neck is due to your posture or more like the muscles are always TURNED ON, then there a few self-stretching activities that you can do at your home.Do you suffer headaches that feel like they are coming from your neck or shoulders?Can you turn your head sideways properly when reversing your car?Do you get shoulder pain or eye tension?

SCM is the Culprit

If you answered yes to some of these then perhaps, we need to look at a neck muscle in the front of your body. The SCM is quite often the culprit that causes many of those problems.If your SCM or sternocleidomastoid muscle, which is attached to the skull just behind the ears and then glides in a long sweep to the center points of your collar bone. The role of the muscle is to:
  • turn your head
  • to help tilt it to the sides
  • and when STRESSED it pulls your chin forward into a chin tuck position.
This is a protection position but if left untreated will compress the back of your neck. Symptoms of this shortening and compression of the suboccipital muscles are:
  • headaches,
  • eye strain,
  • vertigo (sometimes), and
  • tinnitus with lots of general neck pain
  • in chronic states also upper back pain
By making the SCM muscle longer, it encourages our head placement from chin poke into a more healthy “normal” head position and neck alignment.The stretch that I’m going to teach you is pretty easy and you can do this anytime in the comfort of your home. Here are the steps that you should do to do this stretch.
  1. Go to a mirror because you need to look at your SCM muscle and get an idea of what it does. You will see the SCM muscle when you turn your head sideways, it is that strong thick muscle at the front of your neck, it may or may not be visible but you can generally feel it with your fingers.
  2. Next, we shorten and therefore soften your SCM muscle by turning your ear to the front and lowering your head so the ear is dropping down to your collar bone.
  3. Now take hold of that softened muscle and gently starts to bring your head back up to normal and then extend the head so that the opposite ear is directed to the shoulder blade. You’ll feel your fingers sliding down your SCM muscle every time you repeat this shortening and lengthening movement. This promotes a stretch that is also called an active stretch or a myofascial release technique. Shorten your muscle then come up and gently pull your muscle down to get a really good neck stretch muscle.  And you need to do these steps three times for each side of your neck.
  4. Once you completed on one side, you need to do the same steps on the other side of your neck. So again, do the head movements into neck flexion with an ear to the front and then back into neck extension with the opposite ear to the shoulder blade. You might feel a few lumps, bumps, painful spots along with the SCM muscle. That’s perfectly NORMAL for someone with neck issues. Over time these will ‘iron’ out and your head position return to one your therapist will be happy with. You’ll also feel a nice long stretch all the way along with this overused muscle group. Now repeat these steps again 3 times.
So there you have it. I hope you find this article useful for you. These stretches are simple, easy to apply, and can be done pretty much anytime or anywhere. The tip is whenever you feel neck pain or any symptoms related to SCM muscles you know the first of many options is to apply this stretch.

Glutes and Hamstrings Easy Stretching while Sitting

Being an office worker can be a REAL hazard to how your muscles naturally align, how strong they are, and in too many cases how SHORT they can become!!We tend to think of upper body strains e.g. that tight NECK and SHOULDERS but we need to address your lower body as well. This is especially true if you’re sitting for long hours and to be fair who isn’t RIGHT??What happens is that your hip flexors tend to shorten, this in turn creates tightness of your quadriceps, and to make matters WORSE this causes your hamstrings to pull up feeling stiff and short.We now have tight and shortened hamstrings that have close links to weakened buttocks and tight deep hip rotators. The remedy is to take the time to stretch your upper body which is our necks, shoulders, and chest, AND include stretches to your lower body - butt, hamstrings, quads, and calves.So, when you’re waiting for those files to download or just taking a well-earned break, you can apply these two stretches in an easy seated position. I mean what could be EASIER!!Stretch number ONE is for your buttocks or gluteus. But let us first have a little background about this muscle group. The gluteal muscle group is composed of three muscles-- gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. This team of muscles creates the shape of your buttocks and work together when you sit to stand and walk, run, sidestep, the list goes on.The gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in our body and is mainly responsible for the backward movement of the thighs and legs, aided by the two remaining gluteus muscles. Let’s unpack the damage long periods of sitting does - your gluteus minimus tends to weaken and some people complain of the feeling of a “numb-bum”. This can be caused by restriction to the blood supply to the muscle or it can be that the shortened muscles impact some of our nerves. The sciatic nerve is deep in the gluteal group but we will talk about that in a separate article.  Stretching the buttocks region (as shown in this small video) is one way to alleviate this feeling of pain or numbness.To do this while sitting down, first, you need to swing one leg over the other in a crossed position, while making sure that you are not crouching forward. The KEY is that your back STRAIGHT sits as tall as you can and just bend forward from the hips. What you are actually feeling is a stretch in your glutes and not a curve in your back. Again, most people get this stretch wrong by doing a curved crouching position. You need to keep in mind that you're doing this stretch for your buttocks and NOT for your BACK. This is a good glute stretch and tries to stay there for about 20 seconds, repeat for the other leg to definitely reap its benefits.Now, after the glute stretch, we want to do the hamstring stretch. Again, let me tell you about the hamstring muscles. Hamstring muscles are located in the posterior compartment of our things. This muscle group consists of three muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles help in movements of the knee, hip, and legs while running, walking, bending your knees, and squatting. So the most common injuries in the hamstring muscles come from a sports injury. While this holds true, sitting for long periods of hours can make your hamstrings tight so it's best to stretch those muscles to avoid tightness.We stretch the hamstrings in the seated position too! All you need to do is to move a little further forward on your chair. Straighten out one leg but don’t LOCK the knee, we want to focus on the muscles and NOT the nerves in this manoeuver.Now just lean forward as far as you can.Again, you need to make sure that your back is straight and not curved so that the focus of the stretch is not on your back but on your hamstring muscles. Your ankles can be more relaxed here too so you can focus on your hamstrings and NOT the calves. Yep, that will be in another article for you to focus on! You can do this stretch for about 15 to 20 seconds for each leg.Both glute and hamstring stretches are easy to do and can be managed into your workday without disruption. Work time, break time – really anytime within your day.I hope you find these stretches useful. Try to apply them especially if you suffer from lower back pain and watch out for my next article in my journey to keep you balanced, stable, pain free and self-managed in work, rest or play.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]
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