Headache with Tender Top of Neck While Turning

Your pain pattern,
What aggravates it,
How to get relief,
and more…


How People Describe This Pain Pattern

People complain about this spot in their neck being tender when they touch it while turning their heads. I have to admit; I find it interesting that they don’t really complain about pain there but that it is tender to touch.

They usually don’t complain about the headache at first but, almost always, they tell me that they have one, when I ask. Sometimes, they complain that it gets worse when they turn their head so that their nose moves away from the tender spot. They may also complain about it being intense on the same side as the neck tenderness.

When you feel around in the area that is tender at the top of the neck, it usually feels fuller, stiffer and more sensitive than the other side. This is much more common on the right and restricts turning the head to the left.



How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

This trigger point can be activated by turning and tilting the head. This might happen if they fell asleep with their neck across the arm of the couch. People often say that they “just slept funny” and woke up with a stiff neck. This pattern becomes apparent sometimes after working through other trigger point patterns created by whiplash.


The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

Effective relief starts with an understanding of the anatomy.

About the coloring of the illustrations…

These muscles strap the head onto the top two vertebrae and stabilize that movement. Read more in this post about suboccipital muscles.


Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Recommendations.

This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretching, and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.


Treatment Notes for Therapists

Better Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise.

This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.


This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.


Weekly Featured Post

Can’t Reach the Pain
Under the Shoulder Blade

This pain and tension under the shoulder blade may be the most common pain pattern that I see. It isn’t always the primary complaint as people have gotten used to the constant ache.

It is usually combined with this pattern in the upper neck, which creates upper neck tension to go with the shoulder blade pain.

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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