Understanding Trigger Points – Headache with Eye pain

Client’s Description

referrals - occipitalisPeople complain of an intense headache that makes their eyes hurt. When I ask  them about other areas of pain, they will describe the headache near the top of the back of their head while gesturing to it with their hand but they are mostly focused on the eye pain. They describe this eye pain as making their eyes hurt instead of other headaches which seem to pinpoint in the back of the  eye.

They often complain about eye strain, associating the pain in the eye to visual strain. If they wear a hat, they will wear it loosely or complain that it creates a headache or makes their eyes hurt. One client refers to it as “crazy eyes.” She wears a loose baseball cap all the time so that the bill blocks the light but the hat is not tight enough to create the headache.

Ryan Braun has a positive Drug test and shows off his use of the occipitalis muscle.
Photo By Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images

This muscle shifts the hair back, lifting the eye brows without wrinkling the forehead to create that look of reflective disappointment.  You’d have to be a clown or a have a lot of disappointing conversations to create these headaches through over-use of the occipitalis. This trigger point usually is activated through the pressure of a hat, a blow to the back of the head or as a satellite trigger point of the neck trigger points.


Self Care

You may get temporary relief by gently massaging with a warm cloth near the back of your head, just behind your ear. You can feel around back there and find the tender nodules just behind your ear that connect to this headache. The headache pattern will change as you press into them. Use a warm cloth and gentle pressure so you don’t aggravate the trigger point.

If this releases temporarily but returns, see a craniosacral therapist or trigger point specialist. Several of my clients have had a stubborn recurrence of this that required a few sessions of craniostrucural work to resolve.

Therapy Notes

oit-occipitalisThe occiptalis portion of the epicranius is most directly governed by the sutures around asterion. It has significant variances in surface area and thickness.

This can be tricky to pinpoint if you’re not experienced at trigger point assessment. When this headache is a satellite off of the neck muscle, semispinalis, it looks a lot like the headache of splenius capitis. Without the proper client interview, it can also be easily confused for the headache of sub-occipitals.

Similar Patterns

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

tags-back-of-head tags-eye tags-4 tags-top-of-head



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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