Your pain pattern,
What aggravates it,
How to get relief,
How People Describe This Pain Pattern
People touch their temple and say, “I have a headache right here.” When I ask them for other things that are bothering 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, the often have tension from this headache.
Occasionally, they speak of the 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 that it aggravates the stiff neck. There have been a lot less of these complaints as speakerphone and earbud usage has increased.
This headache is really a shoulder problem. If you’ve had problems in your shoulder, especially something that has pulled down or jerked the shoulder, the problem is really coming from there. Once the joints of the clavicle, especially the acromioclavicular joint, becomes stiff or mildly separated, this part of the trapezius develops trigger points and 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.
I’ve watched people in meetings rub their neck, and shoulder while leaned forward, reading. In this case, the pain along the slope of the shoulder 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
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 a number of Do-it-Yourselfers, weekend warriors and backyard mechanics that have hurt this with a sudden overload of the shoulder. This 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 the 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.
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 that it aggravates the stiff neck. There have been a lot less of these complaints as speaker phone and ear bud usage has increased.
This part of trapezius will stretch as your shoulder drops when you get up from the desk, and the headache will be worse 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.
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
Getting Relief on Your Own
That’s Clinically Proven.
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.
Treatment Notes for Therapists
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
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.
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