Suboccipital Exercises

Woman with neck pain.
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The suboccipital muscles are located below your occipital bone, which lies in the lower back area of your skull. When the suboccipital muscles, which include the rectus capitis posterior major and minor and obliquus capitis superior and inferior, are strained or underdeveloped, pain in the head and neck are possible. Other causes of this discomfort include stress and incorrect posture. If you experience consistent pain in your head and suboccipital muscles, talk to your doctor about exercises and pain-relieving alternatives.

Suboccipital Stretch

Stretching the suboccipital muscles may prevent straining and knotting sensations in your neck. Stand with your back and head against a wall or sit with your back straight against the back of a chair. Pull your chin backward until your neck is straightened. If performing this exercise with your back to a wall, pull your chin back until your neck touches the wall. Hold this position for approximately five seconds before releasing. Refrain from lifting your chin upward during this exercise. You may perform this exercise up to seven times a day.

Forward and Backward Stretches

Strain and stress on your suboccipital muscles may be relieved by other simple stretching exercises. The forward and backward stretch may be performed at your desk at work or while relaxing at home. Sit on the edge of a chair with your back straight, chin parallel to the ground. Slowly tilt your head forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your neck. Hold this position for five seconds, then lift your chin and tilt your head backward until you feel a stretch throughout the upper area of your neck. Hold this position for five seconds. Perform this exercise throughout your day for relief from neck strain and pain.

Lying Head Lifts

To further strengthen various muscles of your neck, lie on the floor or on an exercise mat on your abdomen with your chin resting on the floor as well. If you wish, rest your forehead on a rolled-up towel. Lift your head approximately 1 inch off the floor and hold for 10 seconds. Complete 10 total sets of this exercise daily.


Do not attempt these exercises without the consent and instruction of your healthcare provider. If the treatments you are seeking do not provide relief or discomfort is experienced on a regular basis, consult your physician about alternative treatments. Adjustments in your neck may be possible with the help of a licensed chiropractor.