Headache | Occipital Neuralgia Stretches with a Towel

Try these Headache stretches and Occipital Neuralgia Stretches today. It's Stephen Dunn with CORE Therapy and Pilates and today we're going to go over a couple of towel stretches for your neck. These are typically performed to help with headaches or occipital neuralgia.

Headaches throughout history

Ancient references to headaches, migraine, and neuralgia go back to around 1200 BC. The first headache treatment is evident in a 9000-year-old Neolithic skull. Headaches are one of the most common complaints for those seeking medical care. Headaches cost an estimated $14 billion per year in both direct and indirect socioeconomic costs. Globally, 40% of people suffer from tension-type headaches and 10% suffer from migraines. Females suffer from headaches at a much higher rate than males. Learn more about headaches at this article.

Learn more about Occipital Neuralgia HERE

If you're feeling that headache starting to come on, particularly at the base of the skull or just above or behind your eye, try these Occipital Neuralgia exercises Now!  

These towel stretches and exercises will give many people relief at the time they are suffering from a headache. However, if performed consistently when not experiencing a headache can help in many ways. This towel routine can help the mobility of the upper cervical spine and relieve pressure on the occipital nerve caused by tight suboccipital muscles.  

I'm going to show you two ways of doing this routine. One is with a simple hand towel and the second is using a specialized strap called a Mulligan Self Snag Cervical Strap. We're going to start off with a hand towel because everyone has a towel at home.

Occipital Neuralgia Stretches with a Towel

Chin Tuck with the Towel

With the towel placed around the back of the neck, just under the skull, we're going to do a chin tuck. First, hold each end of the towel and pull it away from your head gently. Now perform a chin tuck by bringing your chin back into your throat as you stack your head on top of your spine. Do not look up or down while doing the chin tuck. Maintain your visual field and sight across the horizon.

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When performing this exercise with the towel, make sure to hold the towel by the edge of the towel and not by bunching it all up. Pull away with your hands gently as you perform the chin tuck...

Hold for five seconds and relax.

Hold for five seconds and relax.

Repeat 10 times.

Chin Tuck with the Strap

Let's practice with the strap if you have one. You'll see the actual chin tuck motion a little better as I show you the strap versus the towel. Place the strap right at the base of the skull. Find the knob on the back of the skull and drop it down about an inch. Using the ergonomic handles of the strap pull straight away with your hands as you do the chin tuck. I want you to hold 5 seconds and perform 10 reps.

That's the first one.

Rotation Stretch with the Towel

The next thing we're going to do is called a rotation stretch. We're going to take that same towel and put it around your neck and let it fall on your chest. Cross your hands in front of you with your right hand under (closer to the chest) your left hand. You are going to grab onto the left side of the towel with your right hand. Grab the right side of the towel with the left hand on top.

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Right hand under, left hand on the top while holding the ends of the towel. The right hand is going to pull straight down on the towel like an anchor and the left hand is going to pull the towel under your right ear, between your nose and mouth, and pull straight across to the left, causing your neck to rotate to the left.

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Hold that for 10 seconds and repeat it three times.

Now switch the hands and have the left hand on the bottom, pulling straight down on the towel. Do not pull across and choke yourself, pull straight down with the bottom left hand. With the top right hand, pull the towel to the right and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times on that side, 10 seconds each time. You should feel this stretching just under the left ear and left side of the base of the skull. This is where the first cervical vertebra attaches to the skull. One side will typically feel more restricted than the other. See if you can tell the difference in your right rotation versus your left rotation. 

This hand placement can get confusing so please watch the video a few times to see the entire routine.

Rotation Stretch with the Strap

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What's the difference between the towel and strap? The strap is longer and has ergonomic handles making it easier on the hands. The towel is more challenging to hold and negotiate.

Place the strap around your neck and let the handles hang. Cross the hands with the right hand on the bottom and the left hand on top. The anchor is the right hand and pulling straight down. The left hand is pulling across to the left with the strap under the ear and between the nose and mouth. You will feel a more specific stretch in the suboccipital muscles with the strap compared to the towel.

Hold 10 seconds and repeat three times on this side.

Now switch the hands and stretch in the opposite direction.

And that's it. That's your towel and Mulligan Self Snag Strap stretches to help with headaches and occipital neuralgia. Do these headache stretches and occipital neuralgia exercises daily and see how things change.  

Local to the Austin area, call 512-215-4227 to learn more about how we can help you with your headaches... We have helped hundreds of patients improve their headache symptoms with our physical therapy program at CORE Therapy & Pilates in Westlake Hills, Texas.

Thanks a lot, guys. Y'all take care. We'll see you soon.

Stephen Dunn