Understanding Trigger Points – Neck-ache Headache, Eye-ache

Client’s Description

People come in and complain of a headache behind the eye.
 There are several headache patterns in the eye, so I always ask for as many specifics as possible. If they are a regular client, and know that I will ask more, they go ahead and tell me that it comes out of the neck and creates pain through the middle of their head. Some of them actually touch the spot of the trigger point and complain of tension and stiffness there.

People don’t usually talk to their massage therapist about blurred vision or anxiety but this trigger point creates those symptoms. I have often found this in special needs children that are stuck in fight-or-flight. These symptoms seem to clear up quickly when the trigger point is released. If it is an adult, I ask them about their vision and anxiety before and after to help them make the connection.

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Texting while bending the neck instead of looking down with the eyes can cause this pain-in-the-neck that is a headache. So, in this picture, he will have the pain in the neck, headache and eye pain but, ironically, she will probably be the one to end the date because he is a pain in the neck. Notice the sharp bend at the base of the neck instead of using his eyes to look down.

Here’s another example where someone has that sharp forward bend in the base of the neck but with a turn to one side. This pattern is even more likely to create a pain-in-the-neck that creates tension in the eye and blurred vision. This is one of the headaches that you can get from craning your neck to look at your laptop as well.

Forward head posture is common these days. It may feel good to stretch the back of your neck but it only makes this worse over time. Stretching the front of your neck by taking your head back is something that you need to do after some instructions from your therapist. Improper stretching can compress the posterior joints. I regularly guide clients about how to properly stretch the front of their neck in the shower. Consistency can make a very nice difference in head forward posture.  A little ice on the same side of your neck as the eye pain will often offer some relief.

Your neuromuscular therapist can help you with Forward Head Posture and balancing your pelvis for longer lasting relief.

Therapy Notes


Releasing displaced joints in the upper and mid-cervicals create greater relief. Some clients can accomplish this with persistent ice and stretch self-care but a good sub-occipital and lamina groove routine usually releases this for longer term relief. This also responds well to muscle energy technique in the upper cervicals.

For longer lasting relief and a body that is better and self-correcting, Forward head posture, especially with jutting chin perpetuate this issue. Postural work and craniostructural techniques are a great approach for this.

Trigger points in the lower part of this muscle create very different symptoms. You can read about that in this post.

Similar Patterns

Click on the illustration below to see those patterns.

tags-upper-neck tags-headache tags-eye tags-brow-temple



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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