4 Ways To Relieve A Tension Headache At The Base Of Skull With Massage

Many people suffer from tension headaches, sometimes as often as every day. The pain can be felt at the top of the head, in the forehead or most commonly, at the base of the skull.

If you usually experience headaches at the base of the skull, it’s down to a small group of muscles known as the “suboccipital muscles”. Read the article to know why and how to relieve a tension headache at the base of skull.

suboccipital muscles

They comprise four pairs of muscles and it’s their job to aid movement between the skull and the top of your back.

Most tension headaches are caused by the body’s reaction to stress or strain because when this happens, it subconsciously tenses causing those tiny muscles to tighten up. This adds pressure which is why those tension headaches are so uncomfortable.

There are various things you can do to eliminate your tension headache and massage is a proven effective treatment but before you start to massage the base of your skull, you should look into the reasons why you’re experiencing those headaches.

Reasons for a tension headache at the base of skull

1. Stress

If you’re experiencing a stressful period in life then you will likely have more headaches. Keep hydrated and try to factor in relaxation time. A massage will go a long way to alleviate tension headaches.

2. Hydration

Are you sufficiently hydrated? Lack of water potentially leads to headache symptoms. Your body is made out of 90% water and needs it to function properly. Drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water daily.

3. Glasses/Contact Lenses

When was the last time you had your eyes tested? If you strain your eyes, you will end up giving yourself a headache! Wear the right lenses for your eyes and take a break from screen work every half an hour to give your eyes a rest.

4. Lack of Sleep

If you burn the candles at both ends you can cause headaches so do go to bed early enough to get at least seven hours sleep. Sleep helps you to concentrate better and will reduce the number of headaches you experience.

5. Work Comfort

Check your workstation is comfortable. Are you sitting properly, or are you hunched over a computer screen? If you find you repeatedly tilt your head, you could be straining your occipital muscles. You might need to adjust your monitor, your desk height or your chair height to support your posture better.

6. Posture

Slouching is another potential cause of tension headaches. Notice how you stand. Are your shoulders rounded or are they hunched? Hold your head up high and drop your shoulders. If you need to re-align your posture, try Pilates or Yoga. Both are excellent for elongating muscles and improving posture.

Massage to Relieve a Tension Headache at the Base of the Skull

Before you reach for the medicine bottle, there are various effective massage methods that are extremely beneficial for reducing symptoms of a headache. Try the following:

The Tennis Ball Method

Simply place two tennis balls into a sock and tie the top. Lie down on the floor and place the sock underneath your skull at the bottom. Rock your head backward and forwards, side to side over the tennis balls for a few minutes to reduce tension and unlock muscles.

The Thumb Massage

Dim the lights and close your eyes. Place each thumb under each eyebrow at the socket of the eye. Press thumbs gently and move your thumbs in small circles outward toward the edge of your eyebrows. Repeat a few times applying more pressure toward the bridge of the nose.

The Neck Massage

Place your hands on your shoulders and breathe out. Drop your head slowly, squeezing your fingers into your shoulders and moving your hands upward toward the muscles in your back. Place elbows on a table and massage your neck using your fingertips in small, circular motions from the shoulders to the base of your skull.

Finish by placing your hands on the back of your head and clasp your fingers together. Drop your head forward and pull your head downwards, stretching out the muscles in your neck.

Foam Roller

If you have a foam roller, you can gently move the roller up and down the base of your skull (as well as side to side). Apply pressure as preferred, this loosens up tense muscles and alleviates headache pain. Roll over the area affected for a few minutes at a time.

Helpful products for tension headaches at the base of skull

There are lots of different tools available to buy that help with headaches. We review our two favorites to help you make a decision on the right one for your tension headaches.


Thermacare Advanced Neck Pain Therapy Heat Wrap

Thermacare Advanced Neck Pain Therapy Heat Wrap

Clinically proven, this product retails at approximately $18 (depending on where you buy it from) and delivers up to 16 hours of pain relief. As well as using it on the base of your skull, you could use it on your neck, wrists, and shoulders. It also works well for menstrual pain. Designed to alleviate muscular and joint pain, it delivers intense relief and comfort.

The box contains three heat wraps that work with the contours of your body to stay in place during wear. You can even wear one during the day, discreetly beneath clothes. Wear it for a maximum of 8 hours, upon removal; you still get the benefit of another eight hours of heat on the affected area.

Expect to relieve heat deep into the tissue that soothes the muscles, relieving tension.


Homedics Neck and Shoulder Massager with Heat

Homedics Neck and Shoulder Massager with Heat

Homedics are renowned for their massaging products and this neck and shoulder massager uses deep heat to penetrate the muscles and remove tension. At just $18 (depending on where you buy it from) it’s a useful product to keep handy especially when you know you suffer from tension headaches.

The massager uses invigorating vibration along with heat and has two-speed settings to choose from. Ergonomically designed, it fits comfortably and doesn’t feel bulky. Small enough to travel with or wear at the office (or perhaps while driving), it operates using AA batteries (not included).

This product goes a long way to reducing muscular tension and soothing discomfort and at such a good price, it delivers the relief you want.

4 ways to relieve a tension headache with massage
How to relieve a tension headache with massage

Carmen is an entrepreneur and content marketer. In a former life, as a corporate business executive, she relied on yoga, reflexology and other alternative practices to fight stress, anxiety and find balance. She’s on a mission to build healthy habits for a balanced, healthy life, connecting body, mind and spirit.