What is the best massage for Occipital Neuralgia

A professional massage therapist pointing to a diagram of Occipital Neuralgia

Dealing With a Pain in the Neck? Massage May Be the Answer for Occipital Neuralgia

If you’ve ever experienced shooting, zapping pains that start at the base of your skull and radiate upwards, you might be suffering from occipital neuralgia. This fancy name refers to inflammation or irritation of the occipital nerves that run from the top of your spinal cord, up through your neck muscles, to the scalp. It’s one massive pain in the neck (and head!) that can leave you feeling miserable.

The good news? Massage therapy may provide some much-needed relief for this stubborn condition. By applying pressure and stretching techniques to the neck and head areas, massage can help relax tense muscles, increase blood flow, and calm those angry occipital nerves down. So toss those pain pills aside (well, maybe not literally – check with your doc first) and let’s explore some top massage tips!

Mature women receiving a massage for occipital neuralgia in a medical clinic.
  1. Tip #1: Target the Suboccipital Muscles
    These tiny muscles at the base of your skull attach directly to those pesky occipital nerves. Applying firm pressure with finger pads or knuckles can release tension built up in these areas. According to a study in the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, this targeted massage reduced occipital neuralgia pain in 83% of patients.
    [Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3444235/]

  2. Tip #2: Don’t Ignore the Neck and Shoulders

    While the name focuses on the occipital area, tightness and knots in the neck and shoulder muscles can contribute to occipital neuralgia pain. Using broad, deep strokes along the sides and back of the neck, along with shoulder releases, can indirectly soothe those inflamed nerves. As highlighted in a study by the University of Miami, neck massage provided significant occipital neuralgia relief.
    [Source: https://headachejournal.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2005.00235.x]

  3. Tip #3: Apply Gentle Scalp Massage

    You’ve heard of the old dull-pencil trick to massage your scalp? Well, that actually provides benefit for occipital neuralgia too! Using finger pads or a specialized scalp massager, gently rub and compress the areas where the occipital nerves surface on the back of your head. A Turkish research study found this scalp massage reduced migraine and occipital neuralgia frequency and severity.
    [Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6555841/]

Whether you treat yourself to regular massages, have a loved one provide the therapy, or carefully do it yourself, these techniques can be small miracles for easing occipital neuralgia pain.

Just remember to start gently, communicate any discomfort areas, and avoid massaging directly over any sensitive bony areas. With some concerted (and pleasurable) massaging, you can hopefully go from feeling like you have a vice grip on your skull to blissfully pain-free!

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