One of the primary causes of headaches is the constant stretching (weakening) of a network of muscles at the top of either side of your neck and occiput (base of your skull) called the suboccipital triangle, or SOT. These muscles contain the highest percentage of mechanoreceptors (receptors that sense mechanical sensation and pressure) of any region in your entire body.
The SOT muscles are:
1. Rectus capitis posterior major – connect occiput to C2 spinous process (rear center).
2. Rectus capitis posterior minor – connect occiput to C1 posterior tubercle (rear center).
3. Obliquus capitis superior – connect occiput to C1 transverse process (side).
4. Obliquus capitis minor – connect C1 transverse process (side) to C2 spinous process (rear center).
The SOT gets weakened when we do a lot of hunching forward with our neck i.e. staring at a computer screen for extended periods of time, looking down to text, head propped up on one end of the couch while watching TV, etc.
One way to strengthen these vitally important muscles is a very simple exercise. Essentially you retract your chin straight back, in the opposite direction that your nose points, as if you’re making a double chin. Hold that position at the peak of the contraction for 1-2 seconds, then release. Do this for 10 reps. Once a single set of 10 reps feels too easy, add in a 2nd set. It’s up to you whether you want to eventually do a 3rd set each day. Pay attention to how you feel, and if there is any discomfort, simply stop.
It will elicit a strange feeling in the SOT muscles that you won’t be familiar with. Done consistently over time and the SOT will get stronger and stronger, and you may feel less and less tension.
Now, I say all this with the understanding that C1 and C2 are in proper alignment. Everyone who walks into my office for the first time has a misalignment of C1 and/or C2.
So, once C1 and C2 are in proper alignment after a specific chiropractic adjustment, these exercises will have much more efficacy.
Thank you SO much for putting this information on the internet. I have been experiencing chronic fatigue, concentration/memory/neurological problems, trouble breathing & walking, ataxia, lightheadedness, rocking, swaying & dropping sensations (like when you’re in a plane and it loses altitude or is descending) as well as tremors for years now, and I think that it’s all been coming from my neck. My atlas vertebrae/area – I was told by a chiro, are fine though.
I will attempt to do these exercises every day (as my problems really started to happen when smart phones came into usage – so I think you’re probably spot on here) and will see if they help. I’m also going to have some chiro and physio sessions too to see if they help also. I saw on YouTube a woman that was woken up from a coma because her mother took her (with lots of help) to a chiro for neck adjustments. Her recovery was absolutely amazing.
I do have a strong feeling now that my issues are all stemming from my neck.
So thank you so much for this article 🙏❤ I really need some hope & some help, I can’t go on living this way and basically being house/bed bound. I used to be so active every day, and I really desperately want my life back.
Dr. Brandon Harshe
Look into “upper cervical chiropractic,” Louise. Someone who does Palmer specific, Blair, knee chest, atlas orthogonal, or orthospinology/Grostic. I’d bet money your C1/atlas is NOT in proper alignment. Hope all goes well for you.