Suboccipital Muscles & Trigger Point Pain
Suboccipital muscles (see image) are a group of four muscles located on each side of the upper cervical spines, just below the base of the skull. The muscles connect the base of the skull with the top two vertebrae (C1 and C2) of the neck.
Poor posture in general especially with the increased use of portable electronic devices, which include mobile phones, laptops, and tablets has increased the prevalence of neck pain in both children and adults. Increased screen time on these devices is not only correlated with depression, sleep interruption, and poor food choices, but also rising rates of neck pain, especially in adolescents and young adults. This form of neck pain, including dysfunction of C1 and altered mechanics of the cervical spine due to poor posture, can also lead to headaches. Reading in bed is also a big offender. Any position where your head and neck are positioned forward and in a stationary position for long periods on time increases the likelihood of postural related spinal issues(ie. kyphosis, discogenic disorders etc.), neck pain and headaches.
These suboccipital muscles play an important role in controlling movements of your head and neck, providing sensory input and are also linked closely to vestibular and balance functions. However, when the suboccipital muscles become tightened, the following symptoms may occur. These could include:
- Stiff neck
- Neck pain
- Headaches with a band of pain on the side of the head that extends from the back of the head to the eye as a result of active trigger points. This type of pain feels deep in the head, and often it is difficult to describe.
Messages sent to the brain may be altered, which is also why sometimes headache sufferers may also experience sensory symptoms, including dizziness and visual disturbances.
Treatment includes deep tissue work, trigger point release, manipulation, mobilisation, postural education and a rehabilitation program.