Relieve headaches at the back of the head

Headaches at the back of the head are often caused by tension as well as Trigger Points in the neck area, which you can relieve yourself.

A self-massage can help eliminate these tensions and Trigger Points and reduce pain.

We will get started right away in the next section. You will learn which muscles are most often responsible for these headaches and how you should massage them.

1. Description of the self-massage.

  • Only massage tense and painful areas of a muscle.
  • Tension and pain are signs of muscular dysfunction and quasi an order of the body to pay attention to that area.
  • Massage yourself daily until the pain disappears!

First, we will focus on the muscles that are often the main triggers of pain. By doing so you can expect a genereal reduction in pain.

To start with, I would recommend you only perform steps 1 and 2 of the self-massage for a period ranging from several days up to one week.

If you notice the pain has eased a bit, but don’t see any more progress, then continue with the steps that follow.

1.1 Headache at the back of the head: Step 1 of the self-massage: Zone 1 of the nape of the neck

Muscles: Trapezius, sternocleidomastoid

Do not be frightened by the terms mentioned here. You will understand where and how you need to massage yourself. And that is what matters in the end!

Let’s start with your trapezius muscle. This muscle consists of three parts – the upper, middle and lower trapezius.

For the purpose at hand, only the upper trapezius is of interest because it can send pain to the back of the head in case of excessive tension.

The muscle is located at the back of your neck and you can massage it using the thumb-index technique or the pressure-motion technique.

  • To grasp it, use your hands like a pair of pliers on the back of the neck to find the muscle located there and slightly pull it away from the neck. This muscle is your upper trapezius.
  • You’ll find it most easily just below the middle of your neck. It is no bigger than a pen or your little finger.
  • It might be tricky to grab it is tense because it sits tightly against the neck. However, you will succeed with a little patience.
  • Roll the muscle between your fingers and examine it in this way, looking for sore spots.
  • Once you find one, roll it a few times between your fingers. The most sensitive areas of the upper trapezius are very often found in the lower part.
  • You can also grasp the muscle and move it between your fingers and make small movements, turning your head left to right.

The sternocleidomastoid is the second muscle that is most often responsible for headaches in the back of the head. 

It is hard to pronounce but easy to find and massage.

This is the muscle that is apparent on the side of the neck and runs from the back of the head to the clavicle and the sternum.

You can also massage this muscle using the thumb-index technique or the pressure –  motion technique.

  • Look for sensitive spots and massage them by rolling them between your fingers.
  • Otherwise, you can hold the muscle between your thumb ad index fingers and do a few slow head movements, turning your head slowly from right to left.

There are two areas you need to examine. On the one hand, there is the one that goes from the sternum to the occiput, which is very easy to grasp – and on the other hand, the second one, which goes from the clavicle to the occiput. Let’s begin with the first.

If during the massage or palpation of the sternocleidomastoid you feel your pulse, that means that you are touching an artery in your neck. This is not particularly serious but it should not be massaged. Instead, let go and grab the muscle again, this time without the artery!

Step by step examination of your head from the sternum to the back of the head.

1

Feel out the tendon of the sternocleidomastoid on your sternum and try to grasp it.

This will be much easier if you try doing it a few centimetres above the muscle because it is larger and easier to locate there.

2

From here you can easily follow it up to the back of the head.

It is this muscle area in particular that causes pain in the back of the head.

3

To feel the other part of the muscle, place your fingers in the first third of the collarbone and try to grasp the muscle on the side of your neck using your hands like pliers to grip it.

4

As soon as you feel the muscle, you can roll it a few times between your fingers.

However, you can only do this for a few centimetres because the top of the muscle is covered by the sternal portion, i.e. the one that pulls away from the sternum.

1.2 Headache at the back of the head: Step 2 of the self-massage: Zone 2 of the nape of the neck

Muscles: Semispinalis capitis and cervical, Suboccipitales, splenius cervicis

Let’s continue with the area behind the neck and at the nape.

These areas can be wonderfully massaged with the Trigger Fairy or a massage ball.

The advantage of the Trigger Fairy is that you can massage your neck more accurately than with a ball; you can do it while sitting and spare your fingers the strain—contrary to a self massage with your hands.

For those of you who do not have a massage ball or Trigger Fairy, below you will find instruction on how to do the massage with your fingers.

Self-massage with the Trigger Fairy

Here, precise massage strokes or the pressure-motion technique is used.

Remark: Like always when massaging the neck, start cautiously and only increase the pressure and duration of the massage when you are familiar with your body’s reactions to the massage.

  • Take Trigger Fairy with two hands – one hand on the bow and the other on the handle – and place it on the muscles of the cervical spine, but NOT on the CERVICAL SPINE itself!
  • Search for tender spots in the muscles by applying pressure with the Fairy.
  • The hand on the bow presses while that of the handle pulls.
  • Examine the area just below the skull all the way to the bottom of your neck.
  • It is also important to experiment with the direction of the pressure. Try doing this a bit more to the back and at times more to the side.
  • Look for painful tense areas and do the following massages.
  • Precise strokes: Stroke a painful spot several times going from just before it to just beyond it.
  • Proceed here very slowly and precisely.
  • Pressure motion technique: Press on the muscle and move your head. Make a few “yes-no” movements with your head and tilt your head to the side.
  • And above all, move through the painful parts of the movement without maximising the pain.

The pressure-motion technique using the Trigger Fairy

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1

Always move very slowly and carefully…

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2

... And try to relax during the massage.

Self-massage using a massage ball

  • Place the massage ball on your neck, directly next to the cervical spine.
  • Lean against a wall and roll the area directly adjacent to the spine.
  • This way you search for sensitive spots.
  • Massage each of these spots a few times using circular movements. Always start a bit before the sensitive spot, roll over it, ease the pressure, go back to the starting position and repeat the process. Press the ball into your neck muscles from the behind.
  • Continue in the same way a bit more on the side of the neck and press the ball into the muscle from the side.

How is your headache in the back of the head doing? Try to feel if the massage already had some positive effect.

1.3 Headache at the back of the head: Stage 3: Self massage with the hands.

Here you will be working the same areas as those in step 2. However, here I will be showing you how to do it with your hands. The massage technique I recommend for this is the pressure-motion technique.

You can work very precisely with the hands, apply pressure where needed and focus on small areas.

However, fingers get tired quickly, so you should take short breaks regularly.

In addition, the massage is not as relaxing as with a massage tool, because you have to actively apply pressure with your arms and fingers.

Shape your hand like a shovel and press on the neck muscles with your fingertips. Look for sensitive spots.

Once you find one, stay there, keep applying pressure and make small “yes-no” head movements.

The pain will vary during these movements. Focus primarily on sensitive spots caused by the movements without increasing the pain.

In order to holistically treat the pain at the back of your head, work on the rear AND lateral part of the neck muscles – as shown in step 2.

Below is a list of other areas and muscles that can cause pain in the back of the head.

You have already worked on the most important ones.

1.4 Headache at the back of the head: Step 4 of the self-massage: Back of head

Muscle: Occipitalis

Step-by-step introduction to the self-massage of the back of the head

1

Tilt your head forward and place your index finger at the top-most area next to the cervical spine - towards the centre, you will feel a ligament that runs on your cervical spine, and right next to it you can feel a small but clear depression.

2

From here, move your finger approximately 2- 3 centimetres to the side.

Look for a small hollow/depression in this area. You will have to search a bit to be able to find it.

3

Once you have found it, look for sensitive spots by pressing on it.

Here, there is a point of the occipital muscle that contributes to headache at the back of the head. The muscle itself is so thin that you will not feel it. What you will feel though is its sensitivity when it is excessively tight.

If this muscle/point is painful, then support your hand with your free hand and massage it a few times using the finger technique.

1.5 Headache at the back of the head: Step 5 of the self-massage: The side of the head

Muscle: Temporalis

The temporalis is a thin muscle that stabilises and closes your jaw.

It is flat and forms an arc from the front to just behind your ear. It is the part in the rear that you are interested in since it can cause headaches in the back of the head, if trigger points are present.

Massage the area above and behind the ear with the finger technique, looking for sensitive spots.
To relax the muscle, open your mouth a bit. 15 massage strokes are sufficient for one session.

To spare your fingers, I recommend you to use your free hand to support the hand doing the massage.

In the image on the right I’m on the rearmost portion of the temporal muscle! And remember to pay attention to the area above your ear.

You can also relax the temporal muscle using the pressure-motion technique.

  • Press on the muscle with your fingertips.
  • Open and close your mouth, and bite your teeth together.
  • Repeat this process approximately 20 times.

1.6 Headache at the back of the head: Step 6 of the self-massage: Jaw

Muscle: Digastricus

This muscle is located below your chin and jaw. It is the area below your chin that we are interested in since it is tension in this area that cause or can contribute to headaches at the rear of the head.

Massage the digastricus using the pressure-motion or finger technique.

  • Press your fingertips—max. 1-2 fingers—into the area directly below the chin and look for sensitive spots.
  • For the pressure-motion technique open and close the mouth approximately 20 times.
  • For the finger technique, slowly massage any sensitive spot a few times.

2. Your self-assessment

Important! Where has the massage helped you the most, and where the least?

Which muscles were easy to work with and with which ones did you have difficulties?

Keep reviewing your massage and experiment with the position of the fingers. Proficiency comes with time.

The methods presented here for relieving headaches in the back of the head are very effective, but only produce results when done correctly.

Of course, it will take time to learn how to properly massage all of the muscles presented. But it will be worth it in the end.

Thank you for reading and I wish you a speedy recovery.