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Exercises for Occipital Pain

author image Ashley Miller
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.
Exercises for Occipital Pain
Doctor stretching patient's neck. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Occipital neuralgia is a condition that causes chronic headaches and pain in the back part of your head and neck due to irritation of the occipital nerve. The pain usually takes a cyclical course of pain-spasm-pain, traveling from the base of your neck and head, to the sides and front of your head. Medication, massage therapy and steroid injections are common forms of treatment for occipital pain. Certain exercises may also offer relief. Consult your doctor before trying these exercises.

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Sub-Occipital Neck Stretch

Sit in a straight-backed chair with your head and neck in line with your spine. Place the pointer and middle finger of your right hand on your chin. Push your chin back gently, as though you are trying to make a double chin. Keep your mouth closed. Try to move just your head back towards the back of the wall behind you. You should feel a stretch along the back and sides of your neck and the base of your skull. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then release.

Neck Rotation

Sit in a chair or stand with your neck and head in line with your spine. Slowly rotate your head to the right, keeping your head straight, stretching as far as you can without pain or strain. Look over your right shoulder and hold the stretch for a few seconds. Bring your head back to center and rotate your head to the left, looking over your left shoulder. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and return your head to center. Repeat this stretch several times daily.

Neck Extension and Flexion

Neck extension exercises alleviate tension in the back, front and sides of your neck and can loosen tight muscles at the base of your head. Sit in a chair with your hands resting on your knees. Look forward and keep your head and neck in line with your spine. Slowly lean your head back to look at the ceiling. Bring your head back to center. Bend your head forward, dropping your chin to your chest. Return your head to center. Perform five to 10 repetitions.


Relaxation and rest is often recommended for patients suffering from occipital pain. Savasana is a restorative yoga pose that can induce deep relaxation and alleviate neck pain and headaches, especially when performed with proper head support, such as a folded blanket or low pillow. Lie on your back and put the pillow or folded blanket beneath your head. You can use an eye bag over your eyes for additional relaxation. Let your legs rest in a natural position and rest your arms by your sides, palms facing up. Relax in this pose for up to 30 minutes.

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