Trigger Points – Pain, burning and tingling in the back of the head

Client’s Description

referral - semispinalis mid cervicalWhen the trigger point is mild, people complain of a headache and run their hand up and down the back of their head on one side. They often complain of a bigger area of pain and are surprised at how small the area is that they are actually touching. 

Sleeping with pressure on the back of the head and neck may bother them and disturb sleep. They prefer to get relief from an ice pack on the back of their neck than heat and may complain that heat makes it worse, very quickly.

They often do not know why or how this happened, unless there was an incident that whipped their head around such as car accident or a fall onto their back while holding their head up. In these cases of trauma, other patterns usually need to be sorted out as well. I have created this headache by working with a screen that is high on the wall in front of me. After hours of doing so, my head will start to get itchy and tingly before a headache comes on. It can also be caused by laying the top of the neck on the edge of a hard surface, e.g., washing hair in the sink at a salon.

Greater Occipital Nerve Entrapment:

When the muscle is severely restricted by the trigger point, people complain of burning, tingling and “that numb feeling” on the back of their head. This may be situational as when someone is looking up sharply to paint trim or help someone on a ladder.

At this point, the greater occipital nerve has become entrapped, and people are more concerned with the tingling than with the headache. This condition occurs in the small percentage of people that have the nerve piercing the semispinalis capitis muscle. Most people get the more common headache at the back of the head that appears as a focused line across the base of the head. It is interesting to see how much they will unconsciously touch the back of their head while talking.



Get relief
with Self Care.

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.

Better Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise.

This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.


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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