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Headache at the base of your head

Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,

The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
and more…

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

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 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 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.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

In another post, I discussed how joint problems perpetuate trigger points. This pattern persists when the top vertebrae (atlas) gets wedged forward underneath the head. This posture happens, for example, when you’re 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 your head, creating “Forward Head Posture.

When your head is 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 necks to listen empathically.

Clients often connect this headache at the base of their head with something that 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.

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 lies in a particular fixed position for an extended position. The stretches in the self-care section help the 3:15 headaches from coming on.

The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

Start by Understanding the Anatomy.
About the coloring of the 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 Recommendations.

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 and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.

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