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Headache At Your Temple with Stiff Neck

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

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

Headache at temple with stiff neck

People touch their temple and say, “I have a headache right here.” When I ask them for other things that bother them, they usually complain of a stiff neck. It is also common that they trace from the neck around the back of the ear to the temple. When asked about their eyes, they often have tension from this headache.

Jaw Pain

Occasionally, they speak of jaw pain. This usually only happens with clients that are very sensitive to their head pain or have had previous TMJ dysfunction.

The shoulder is weaker when they hold the phone with the shoulder. The shoulder tires quickly and intensifies your headache. They may shift to the other shoulder but find it aggravates the stiff neck. There have been fewer complaints as speakerphone, and earbud usage has increased.

Shoulder Problem

Actually, this headache is a shoulder problem. If you’ve had problems in your shoulder, especially something that has pulled down or jerked the shoulder, the problem probably comes from there. Once the joints of the clavicle, especially the acromioclavicular joint, become stiff or mildly separated, this part of the trapezius develops trigger points and resists stretching.

Often, the pattern hurts when you get up after sitting with your shoulders shrugged. The shoulder also seems tight when you lean away, as when you hold your phone on the other shoulder. This stretching motion, especially when the trigger point is very active, will increase a headache or make the stiff neck agitated.

I’ve watched people in meetings rub their neck and shoulder while leaning forward, reading. In this case, the pain along the shoulder slope is active, and they don’t notice the headache as much. They are surprised and amazed when I ask if they have tension around the back of their ear or tension in their temple.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern


Sudden Jerk on Shoulder

This trigger point can be activated when something yanks down on the shoulder. Clients often return more than once because their dog has taken off suddenly. I was able to stop my dog from doing this with ideas from a video on YouTube called “Command Performance.”

I’ve had many Do-it-Yourselfers, weekend warriors, and backyard mechanics that have hurt this with a sudden overload of the shoulder. This jerk on the shoulder creates a bind, or sometimes, a mild separation in the shoulder joint, and the problem persists until a bodyworker, orthopedist, or surgeon works on it. When this happens, they may only complain of a stiff neck, especially if they have Forward-Head Posture. If both shoulders get mild joint problems, the neck tends to be stiff when turned in either direction.


Seated Elbow Support

This part of the trapezius will stretch as your shoulder drops when you get up from the desk, and the headache will worsen as the trapezius supports the weight of the shoulder. A lot has been written about getting chairs with the right armrest instead of dealing with the underlying problem so that the trapezius shortens and lengthens comfortably.

Mild Shoulder Separtion

Once the joints of the clavicle, especially the acromioclavicular joint, becomes stiff or mildly separated, this part of the trapezius resists stretching. Often, the pattern hurts when you get up after you have been sitting with your shoulders shrugged. The shoulder also seems tight when you lean away, as when you hold your phone on the other shoulder. This stretching motion, especially when the trigger point is very active, will increase a headache or make the stiff neck agitated

The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

Musculoskeletal Anatomy

About these Illustrations…

This post on anatomy contains standard information about the origin, insertion, function, and innervation of muscles. It also includes information on functional considerations and anomalies.

Find Related Posts

Anatomy posts have a grid of all related posts. This includes posts on pain patterns, self-care, therapy notes, NMT protocols, cranial techniques, and cases.

Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Strategies

Self-Care Posts have common sections to make them easy to follow and understand:

  • Activities to Avoid or Change
  • Strategies for Quick Relief
  • Stretches and Exercise for Longer-Lasting Relief
  • Yoga Corner

Therapy Notes for Massage and Bodywork

Better Bodywork,
Through Shared Expertise.

Therapy Notes provide details for cranial, spinal, and local joint work. These notes also link to a traditional neuromuscular protocol.

By treating integrative components first, direct work on the muscle becomes less intense, while providing longer lasting relief.

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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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