Understanding Trigger Points – Headache on the Top of Your Head

Here’s another common headache:

Headache on the top of your head.

This pattern is a spot that hurts on the top of your head. It almost always comes from the splenius capitis muscle. That muscle runs like a little strap from the center of the back of your neck to the base of your head behind the ear. The location of the trigger point is the green asterisk  in the illustration. Once again, the trigger point that generates the pain is nowhere near the headache.  I get this headache once in a while and find it easy to relieve with just a little attention because I can pinpoint the cause.

Clients come in and touch the top of their head saying, “I have a headache on the top of my head.” They almost always lean forward with their chin up and turned to one side while talking. They will often bend at the waist while sitting to make this more comfortable.

This problem is created by craning the neck forward while twisting the chin up and to one side. The original research talked about it being a problem with bird watchers. I find that it is more common in people watching monitors up high while twisting to one side. I have also seen this from painting the molding. You could get it from watching TV at the sports bar but looking down at the chicken wings and drinking beer breaks up the pattern, so I don’t see many of them.

This muscle is almost always involved in cases of vehicular whiplash.

I was looking for photos for examples and it occurred to me that a lot of models must have this headache. I’m sure that this photo of Madonna made this a popular headache in the 80s. She kind of looks like she’s in pain, don’t you think?

You will also see this spot as a problem in sternocleidomastoid but the rest of the pattern is so dominant that people seldom notice the spot on top. Don’t worry, your neuromuscular therapist is trained to sort this out. This trigger point is sustained by some joint problems in the top of your neck. Your NMT will take care of that too.

By the way, a little ice at the base of your head will help til your NMT can get to this.

Tony Preston sees clients in Atlanta, GA. He has authored a number of texts on neuromuscular and teaches Integrative Bodywork.

12 thoughts on “Understanding Trigger Points – Headache on the Top of Your Head

  1. Pingback: Understanding Trigger Points- Headache All Over Or In A Band Around The Head | Integrative Works

  2. I have awful headaches on the top of my head and my nose is usually blocked when I have this headache. What causes this headache and what can I do about it. Your help would be much appreciate. Thankyiu

  3. This was very informative! Picture helps. I have pain exactly where the asterisk is and suddenly i have pain on the top of my head. I will see the Doctor if pain gets worse. As of now the pain has subsided. Thanks Doc!

  4. My mom has the same problem, i had a little research right now and i found it an anemic pain which cause of lack of iron in blood.

  5. I also have this problem, from sleeping on my stomach with my head slightly turned upward and rotated to the right. Trying to train myself to sleep on my side but a tough habit to break…

  6. same thing happens to me on the top of my head it just started once I got out of the shower I don’t know what is causing it but it lasts for a few seconds and the leaves and then comes back :/

  7. About 3 weeks ago I started having this aching headache each day on and off throughout the day. Almost at the same time I starting waking up from sleep throughout the night with the headache. Before this I slept soundly through the night and extremely rarely had headaches. I also started weening off of caffeine around the time both of these began. Any suggestions for how to break the cycle of this headache and tossing/turning sleep?

  8. Hello,

    I recently have been experiencing the top of the head headache and it is very intense. 2 Cat Scans and 2 MRI’s (one with contrast) have come back clean. I have had many tests and I am lucky to have no underlying issues. Do you think icing at the base of my neck and the asterick point will help? I am very uncomfortable and this pain causes major anxiety.

    Thank you.

  9. I have terrible migraines and pain on top of skull. No medical person has addressed the intense skull pain (to touch)

  10. I been having a pain on the top of my head maybe to the right a *Little* and it feels like a nail something small stabing in my head hurting for like 1 to 5 seconds then goes away and though out the day it happens. It started last night and this is my second day having it and I’m not even 18 years old. Is it because I haven’t been sleeping A lot lately or staring at the computer screen all day with my earphones in watching youtube and gaming all day any suggestions would help why this happening to me :)

  11. I’ve been having the pain on the top of my head for several months. I use my iPad a lot since my desk top computer went down. I bend my head forward and down. The pain has gotten worse during the day but doesn’t bother me to sleep. I’m grateful to know that I’m not alone! The picture showing the area of pain matches my area of pain exactly. The use of the iPad and the headache seem to have been around the same time. Guess I’ve solved my problem!

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