While our focus in our clinic is primarily hands-on therapeutic techniques designed to restore mobility to the upper neck, we also strive to set our patients up for success with a robust home exercise program. This typically includes stretches and exercises that can be done without equipment or with a simple hand towel, but we also recommend specific home care tools and devices that can be added into the patient routine to help keep things loose. Below are a few of the basic tools that we recommend.
A foam roller is an excellent tool that can be used as a stretching aid as well as a way of massaging out tender areas. You can lay on top of the roller using your body weight to apply pressure to the back, glutes, and IT bands. We typically recommend a 36″ foam roller in clinic, as it can be used for ,this great pec stretch.
Tennis Ball/Lacrosse Ball
Laying on a tennis or lacrosse ball can help you apply direct, targeted pressure to sore areas and knots. A tennis ball has a little more give whereas a lacrosse ball is harder and can be used on extra tight spots if it is not too sensitive in that area.
Another tip is to put two balls inside a sock and tie off the end. You can then lay down with the two balls directly under the suboccipital area (where the base of your skull meets your neck) and apply direct pressure this way.
Occipital Release Block
This tool is usually made of a firm foam material and is designed to place pressure along on the suboccipital area. Some variations of this tool include massaging ridges, adjustable knobs, or even heat for days when you feel especially sore. One benefit of these tools is that they are typically small enough to take with you in a suitcase, making them ideal for travel.
Percussion tools like this Bob and Brad Mini Massage Gun are great for applying rapid percussion to sore areas that need a little more pressure than you can apply with just your hands. The combination of pressure and vibration increases blood flow to the areas it’s applied to, which can help with muscle recovery. The vibration can trigger a headache in some patients if applied directly to the neck, so it is advised to start slowly with this tool and work in shorter bursts of time at first until tolerance is assessed.
There are several variations of this tool available for purchase online – it is a shepherds hook shaped massager with knobs that can be used to target trigger points or for a pin and stretch style of release. ,Check out our demo video on how this hook can be used to massage the upper neck. This tool can also be used to massage the lower back, calves, and even your feet. You can find ,a hook like this online for about $25, making it an affordable and convenient option!
We hope these tools, coupled with the stretches that we teach in clinic and through our social media, can help you find relief from headache or migraine pain. For more in-depth information on this topic check out our podcast episode on home care tools!