Understanding Trigger Points – Headache at the back of your head

Client’s Description

This pattern creates a strong band of tension along the base of the head that comes up over the back of the head. It comes from the semispinalis cervicis muscle. When it is only active on one side the pain is focused at the base of the head 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.

Most commonly, both sides are active and it feels more like this:

The client comes in complaining of a headache at the base of their head. They may continue to say that it is really 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.



I talked about how joint problems perpetuates trigger points. This pattern is perpetuated when the top vertebrae (atlas) gets wedged forward underneath the head. It comes from sitting in front of the computer like the woman in this picture:

It is even worse when you prop your chin in your hand. After you get up from the computer, this muscle continues to pull down on the back of the head creating “Forward Head Posture.” When your head sits in front of your shoulders, muscles in the back of the neck strain to pull it back. Before computers and mobile phones, this posture was mostly a problem in counselors who craned their neck to empathize.

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. It happens when there are some fixated joints in the upper neck and the head lays in a certain fixed position for an extended position The stretches in the self-care section help the 3:!5 headaches from coming on.



Get Relief with Self Care.

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.

Better Bodywork Through Shared Expertise.

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

Featured Post

Cough less and
Cough with less pain.

This post has reliable techniques to help you cough less. I’ve “magically” stopped the coughing of many clients with a few seconds with this neurological trick.

When you stop coughing,
continue to practice social distancing.
Act responsibly in protecting
the health of yourself and others.

There are also several self-care items to help you when the coughing hurts in your side, or in your back.

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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