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  • Writer's pictureJudy Slater

Neck pain at base of skull, Headaches, Part 2

These are self-care tips to help bring temporary relief while we are dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. These exercises alone probably won't solve the problem because we are addressing symptoms not the root issues like common compensatory patterns caused by muscular imbalances, poor posture, overuse or inactivity. These tips are best used between bodywork sessions as home-retraining exercises recommended by a Myoskeletal Alignment Therapist, Physical Therapist, or a bodyworker who takes a global approach and understands how to assess and treat the underlying issues. For lasting results seek professional help to address the underlying issue and contributing factors.

Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) & Chin Tucks

Symptoms: Base of the skull pain or headaches, Part 2

Forward Head Posture, Upper Cross Syndrome

Today we are going to dig a little deeper looking at two possible contributing factors to stressed suboccipital muscles. The SCM muscle can be tight and pull the head forward, aggravating the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull. (Suboccipital muscles were addressed directly in yesterday's post)

This muscle is slippery and can be a little hard to keep a hold of. As with most stretches a gentle and slow approach is better than being rough, jerky or aggressive.

First you will lean your ear to the side you want to stretch and flex the shortened muscle so it pops up. Take the side of your index finger and gently pinch the muscle against your thumb. You can just apply pressure and breath into it, moving your grip up or down the length of the muscle. (If you feel anything nervy you need to adjust your grip to make sure you only have the SCM muscle.) If you feel you need to increase intensity, pinch the muscle then turn your chin toward the side you are stretching. This muscle attaches at the base of the skull behind your ear so you may feel the stretch there.

Chin Tucks

A second possible contributing factor to tight suboccipital muscles is an abnormal muscle firing order caused by a common muscular imbalance with weak deep neck flexors. An excellent exercise we should all be doing daily is chin tucks. Not a pretty exercise, but it can easily be done while working on the computer or sitting at a stop sign.

To perform chin tucks, simply sit straight, with a straight neck and tuck your chin creating as many double chins as possible. A set of 10 twice a day or whenever you're at a stop sign will help restore deep neck flexor strength.

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