The occipitalis is part of the occipitofrontalis, which is the muscle that covers part of the skull. It consists of two muscles, the frontalis, and the occipitalis, which are connected by the epicranial aponeurosis, a large swath of connective tissue.

The occipitalis is found in the back of the head just above the base of the skull. Trigger points in the muscle can cause pain at the base of the skull, the back of the head, and around the eye.

Contents of Article


    Where is the occipitalis muscle?

    Occipitalis Anatomy Showing Trigger Point Locations

    The occipitalis is located at the back head, above the base of the scalp. It attaches to the occipital bone (back of the skull) and connects to the epicranial aponeurosis.

    What movements does the occipitalis muscle control?

    • Pulls the scalp back
    • Assists with raising the eyebrows
    For additional occipitalis anatomy information, visit the Occipitalis Anatomy Page.

    What pain and symptoms are associated with the occipitalis muscle?

    Occipitalis Referred Pain Pattern
    The occipitalis can contribute to wide-ranging pain throughout the head. A common complaint is pain in the back of the head or toward the top of the head that feels deep in the head. Pain around the eye can also be traced back to trigger points in the occipitalis. Occasionally there is a band of pain from around the eye that extends to behind the ear.
    Another common sensation is the feeling that the scalp is pulled tightly over the skull.
    The symptoms:
    • Pain in the back of the head and toward the top of the head.
    • Pain around the eye
    • Tight scalp
    NOTE: Pain in the back and top of the head with shooting pain or aching in the eye are also signs of an aneurysm or cerebral hemorrhage. If you are experiencing these signs, it is important to see your doctor!

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    What Causes Trigger Points In the Occipitalis?

    The most significant contributor to trigger points in the muscle is stress and tension. When you are stressed, you tend to exaggerate facial expressions. This includes opening the eyes wide, squinting, and wrinkling the forehead, which works and overworks the muscle.

    Eye strain affects both the occipital and frontalis muscles. Straining to focus the eyes puts constant stress on both of the muscles.

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    The Craniocradle treats headaches and stiff necks. The cradle applies pressure to the muscles while providing gentle traction to the neck. Use for 5-10 minutes and feel a reduction in pain and stress. You can use the cradle to treat other areas of the body, including the low back and hip areas. Instructions are provided with the cradle.

    Occipital Trigger Point Treatment

    Treating occipital trigger points is easy. Place your fingertips above the base of the skull and rub up in the direction of the muscle fibers. If you feel a small knot, tight band of tissue, or an exceptional tender spot, stop and apply pressure for 10 seconds. Do not hold pressure longer as this will aggravate and possibly inflame the tissue. Do this treatment 3-4 times a day until the knot and the pain is gone.

    Interesting Facts About The Occipital

    For those who have this talent, the occipitalis is the muscle that wiggles the ears.

    Clinical diagnoses to which the occipital muscle symptoms may contribute:

    • Tension headaches
    • Migraines headaches
    • Cluster headaches
    • C2 radiculopathy
    • Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction
    • Eye strain


    Other muscles that should be considered and examined in conjunction with the occipital:

    Satellite trigger points associated with the occipital muscle:

    If you find trigger points in the muscle you will want to check these muscles for additional trigger points.
    • Frontalis
    • Temporalis
    • Semispinalis capitis
    • Splenius capitis
    • Trapezius (upper part)


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    I often recommend the Neck King Massage Tool For Neck and Back to my clients who suffer from headaches, migraines, and stiff necks. The Neck King works on trigger points and pressure points to help relieve muscle tension and pain. The secret to using the Neck King is to follow the directions carefully and slowly build up the time that you use the tool. For many first-time users, the tool is too hard to use comfortably. Folding a hand towel and laying it over the Neck King will help ease the discomfort. It works extremely well on the muscles at the base of the skull. This tool has helped me, and many of my clients relieve headaches, sore, stiff necks, and upper back strain.

    Find additional muscles that may contribute to these symptoms:


    Muscles with similar pain patterns

    Suboccipital Muscle
    Longissimus Capitis
    Sternocleidomastoid Muscle
    Frontalis Muscle