Understanding Trigger Points – Headache At Your Temple

Client Description

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 your shoulder. The shoulder tires quickly and intensifies your headache.


Self Care

If you sit at the desk with your elbows on the armrests for a while, this muscle will shorten, and the headache will usually lessen. Unfortunately, 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.

It can also be aggravated by a motion that pulls the shoulder down like a dog pulling on a leash or carrying blocks to build a wall.

This part of the trapezius resists stretching. Your shoulder 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.

The focus of pain is mostly at the temple with tension in your neck. It is unlikely that you would think of massaging just above the collar-bone to get rid of the headache. A little ice or heat on the fleshy part of the shoulder just above the end of the collarbone help to release this trigger point. A little icy-hot or peppermint oil will give some relief through the day.

There are some joint problems in your upper neck and shoulder that usually need to be addressed to get long-term relief. See you trigger point specialist if this is a regularly occurring problem.

Therapy Notes

The trapezius is a complex muscle with three bellies that cross many joints. The first illustration shows the origin/insertion of the whole trapezius while the other two illustrations show the origin/insertion of just the upper belly.

  oit-trapezius-posterior oit-trapezius-anterior

oit-trapezius-posterior-upper oit-trapezius-anterior-upper

The upper trapezius is structurally very different from the rest of the trapezius. It suspends the clavicle and acts more like a 3rd head of sternocleidomastoid. It should be addressed that way in therapy. Studies show that the fibers run more medial/lateral than they appear. Trapezius pulls the distal clavicle so that it pivots upward instead lifting the clavicle as the clavicular SCM does.

Freeing up displacements in the upper cervicals are key for lasting results. After that, the acromioclavicular joint seems to directly perpetuate the activity of this trigger point. Next, mobilize the sternoclavicular joint so that it pivots freely. Chronic head-forward posture is a perpetuating factor and may need to be addressed.

Related posts:

Click on these categories to see if there is a referral pattern that better describes your concerns.

tags-brow-temple tag-stiff-neck  tags-neck tags-headache tags-tmj 


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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