The suboccipital muscles

Several recent clients have been surprised by how tender the muscles at the base of their skull felt when we workhead-982908__340ed there. I also noticed this part of my anatomy on the last few miles of a recent ride on my road bike. I started feeling my neck getting stiff.

The muscles in question are the suboccipitals. There are four of them and they connect your skull to the spine and are also connected to your eyes. They help tip your head toward your shoulder, among other actions. When the suboccipitals are tight, you could experience headaches, neck tightness, or even back pain.

Common posture habits can contribute to issues with the suboccipitals. Typical culprits are forward head posture or habitually tipping your chin up (to look through bifocals or at a computer monitor).

road-bike-2263202__340

Note how this rider’s head is tipped up to see the road.

To reduce tightness in the suboccipitals, some options to try include these easy things.

  • Pay attention to your posture (Rolf Line) – if your head is forward, bring it back into alignment.
  • Confirm that your computer monitor is at an ergonomic height. Usually, this means the top of the screen is at or below eye level.
  • Notice if you tend to tip your chin up and bring it back to level.
  • Make sure your glasses are properly adjusted.
  • Avoid holding your phone between your head and shoulder.

For more relief, you can also use 2 tennis balls in a sock to massage the base of your skull. For instructions and photos, refer to this post by Strength on Demand.

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