Massage Hack #2

Sub-occipital Relief by way of Anterior neck


As a massage therapist, there is nothing more frustrating than working on a person’s body and not being able to make a difference in the tissue.

  • Maybe it’s because the joint isn’t as neutral as it could be, making the soft tissue have to stabilize instead of mobilize.
  • Maybe something on the opposite side of the body or joint is pulling making a tug of war situation limiting mobilization of a joint.
  • Maybe the person is holding on to an emotional pattern which won’t allow a shift in soft tissue or causing chronic lymphatic congestion.

There could be dozens of reasons why a person’s body isn’t responding to treatment.  Over thousands of clinical hours and two decades studying human movement and bodywork, I have developed certain protocols in dealing with acute and chronic musculoskeletal dysfunctions in the body.

In this series, I will provide you with quick, concise, and accurate information on how I have successfully treated certain conditions in the body over and over.  I am making this intellectual information available free of charge because I believe in inclusivity instead of exclusivity, and I want the most number of people on this earth to be able to be helped with this knowledge.

Disclaimer: It is YOUR responsibility to adapt this information to the training you have received and are qualified to do, and work within your scope of practice and laws in your area.

Problem: overly tight sub-occipital muscles at the posterior upper neck, where the neck and cranium meet. These set of muscles can at times seem impossible to loosen up, no matter how you try to mobilize them. Many times these muscles and surrounding fascia are ischemic, and very dense, even up on the occipital ridge of the cranium.

Treatment: soften/mobilize the longus capitis and longus colli muscles located on the anterior neck. What? You say? That’s an endangerment zone. Yes, it can be a tricky place to work, which is why receiving proper training is essential. There are non-invasive ways to soften those muscles indirectly (Ortho-Bionomy) as to minimize risk of dissecting a major blood vessel. There are also safe direct methods to mobilize those muscles with proper training and advanced palpation skills, you can learn how to navigate behind the sternocleidomastoid, up and over anterior transverse process attachments, weave underneath the blood vessels and slide onto the longus muscles without making direct contact with the carotid arteries and jugular veins. With expert palpation skills, you will know if you are on a blood vessel because you will feel a pulse. Constant communication with your client is also essential here as when you are on the correct structure, it will give the client a sensation of having a tension headache. The feeling of headache will go away once you remove the pressure, but it’s the sign you’re on the right muscle. The amount of pressure you would use would not be enough to dissect a blood vessel if you were on one, because you would not add any extra pressure beyond the weight of your own thumb or chosen finger for this work and there is no stripping. Even the direct work is very gentle and deliberate.

Re-Check: In my experience, mobilizing the longus muscles has a profound and immediate effect on the posterior upper neck (sub-occipital group). Usually both myself and the client is amazed on how loose and mobile it feels after doing this protocol


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