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  • Writer's pictureSam Kelokates

Release Tension and Relieve Headaches with Self Myofascial Release of the Suboccipitals

Do you often find yourself battling stubborn neck pain causing headaches that just won't go away? It's time to discover the incredible benefits of self myofascial release (SMR) specifically targeted at the suboccipital muscles. By learning these simple yet effective techniques, you can find relief from those nagging headaches and enjoy a renewed sense of well-being.

What is Self Myofascial Release

Self myofascial release (SMR) is a technique used to release tension and tightness in the muscles and connective tissues of the body. It involves applying pressure to specific areas using various tools or body parts, such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, or even one's own hands, to target trigger points and knots in the muscles.

The fascia is a thin, tough connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles, bones, and organs in the body. By using SMR techniques, individuals can release muscle tension, improve relaxation, increase mobility, improve muscle recovery, and reduce pain.

The Suboccipitals and Headaches

The suboccipital muscles, located at the base of the skull and upper neck, can play a significant role in causing headaches. When these muscles become tight and restricted, they can contribute to tension-type headaches, migraine, and cervicogenic headache.

By focusing on self myofascial release of the suboccipitals you can address the musculoskeletal trigger of your headache.

Below I will illustrate two techniques that can be used to perform SMF to the suboccipitals. To performed these techniques you will need a tool called a cervical peanut, or two lacrosse balls.

Both techniques are performed laying on your back. It is best to perform on the floor. If you have a hard flooring surface, you can use a yoga mat for cushion.

Self-Massage with Head Nod

Begin by placing a cervical peanut or a similar tool at the base of your skull and neck. Gently nod your head up and down while applying controlled pressure to the suboccipital muscles.

This movement helps massage and release tension in the targeted area, providing pain relief.

Sustained Hold

In this technique, maintain pressure on the suboccipital muscles by holding the cervical peanut against the base of your skull and neck. Allow yourself to relax into the pressure for 15 to 60 seconds. This sustained hold helps release deep-seated tension and encourages better blood flow to the area.

For those seeking a deeper release, the bridge technique can be incorporated. While maintaining the sustained hold with the cervical peanut, lift your hips off the ground, creating a bridge with your body.

This additional pressure intensifies the release of tension in the suboccipitals, providing even greater relief from headaches.


Headaches can be a major hindrance to our daily lives, but self myofascial release of the suboccipitals offers a natural and effective solution. By implementing these simple techniques into your routine, you can experience relief from headaches and enjoy improved overall well-being.

Remember, self myofascial release is not a substitute for professional medical advice, so consult with a healthcare professional if you have specific concerns or persistent pain. Embrace the power of SMR and say goodbye to headaches, welcoming a new chapter of headache-free living.

Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for personalized guidance and recommendations.

About Me:

Hi, my name is Sam Kelokates, PT, DPT. I am a licensed physical therapist and owner of Kelos Physical Therapy, located in Philadelphia, PA. I specialize in the non-pharmacological management of headache and migraine disorders.

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