The Occipitalis Muscle

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

Trigger Point Symptoms

Muscle Location

Trigger Points Cause

Trigger Point Treatment

Interesting Facts

Clinical Diagnoses

Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

What pain and symptoms are associated with the occipitalis muscle?

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 scalp.

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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Where is the occipitalis muscle?

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.
TWD Recommends:

The Craniocradle was developed to treat 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. The cradle can also be used for treatment on other areas including the low back and hip area. Instructions are provided.

What Causes Trigger Points In the Occipitalis

The biggest contributor to trigger points in the muscle is stress and tension. When you are stressed you have a tendency to over-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 the both of the muscles.

For Chronic Head Pain

The Headache Hat is a cold pack made specifically for those with chronic headaches and migraines. It is designed so you can adjust to specific pain points. The bottom band can be used to cover the eyes or can be flipped up so you can see. If ice relieves your head pain this is definitely something you will want on hand. (cannot be heated)

TWD Recommends:

I use and often recommend the Neck King Massage Tool For Neck and Back Pain 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 to slowly build up the time spent using 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. This tool has helped me as well as many of my clients relieve headaches, sore stiff necks and upper back strain.

Occipital Trigger Point Treatment

Treating occipital trigger points is easy. Simply 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.

TWD Recommendation for Chronic Pain :

Relief Factor

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 this muscle for additional trigger points.

  • Frontalis
  • Temporalis
  • Semispinalis capitis
  • Splenius capitis
  • Trapezius (upper part)

Other Muscles With Similar Pain Patterns

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle

Suboccipital Muscles

Splenius Cervicis Muscle

Splenius Capitis Muscle

More TWD Recommendations For Headaches and Neck Pain

Elasto-Gel Cervical Roll 

Eco Hot Cold Massage Roller

Hempactiv Pain Relief Cream

Donna Martin

Massage Therapist Owner: Twelve years of experience working with clients with chronic pain, post injury pain, and post surgery pain. Muscle dysfunction is often overlooked but can hold the key to many pain conditions.

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