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Headache at the Base of The Head

Trigger point pain post includes

  • how people describe this problem
  • activities that create or aggravate the trigger point
  • links to relief through self-care, anatomy, and massage notes

Want to skip ahead?
Here’s a link to my post about
getting relief on your own.

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

Sometimes, Its One Side

This headache pattern creates a strong band of tension along the base of the head that comes up over the back of the head. When it is only active on one side, the pain is focused at the base of the skull and creates tension that mostly radiates up the back of the head. When I have this headache, it is usually only a few minutes of joint work and stretching until it is gone.

Usually, It’s Both Sides

The client complains of a headache at the base of their head. They may continue to say that it is more of a neck ache that extends up into their head. It is usually dull and miserable instead of being sharp and blinding. If I ask further, they complain about it coming up over their head toward the front. At times, they describe this as less like pain and more like tensin and pressure.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

Computer Neck
or iHunch

In another post, I discussed how joint problems perpetuate trigger points. This pattern persists when the top vertebra (atlas) gets wedged forward underneath the head. This posture happens, for example, when you sit in front of the computer like the woman in this picture:

It is even worse when you prop your chin in your hand. Then, after you get up from the computer, this muscle continues to pull down on the back of your head, creating “Forward Head Posture.

Painful, Active Listening

When people lean their head forward, muscles in the back of the neck strain to pull it back. Before computers and mobile phones, this posture was mainly a problem in counselors who craned their necks to listen empathically.

Somatovisceral Reflexes

Clients often connect this headache at the base of their heads with something they ate. For instance, one client noticed that he gets this headache and night sweats and this headache in the back after eating beef with garlic seasoning. No,it’ss not a garlic thing for everyone. Another client gets this after dairy products. It seems to be a reaction to specific food sensitivities. Somatovisceral reflexes increase trigger point activity in muscles that are already tight.

This headache often happens at night. People often refer to it as “that headache that comes on at 3:15.” They are looking for a better pillow or sleeping position. These trigger points activate with fixated joints in the upper neck and the head lying in a particular fixed position. The stretches in the self-care section help the 3:15 headaches from coming on.

The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

Musculoskeletal Anatomy

About these Illustrations…

This muscle is deep in the back of the neck and extends into the upper ribs. You can read more about it in this post about semispinalis cervicis.

Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Strategies

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

Therapy Notes for Massage and Bodywork

Better Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise

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

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.

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