Stiffness and Pain at the Base of the Neck

Client’s Description

People turn their head and complain of stiffness that focuses in a spot on one side of the base of their neck. When I ask for more details, they often turn their head slowly until they say, “There. It hurts right there.” When I ask them to touch where it hurts, they lay their hand on the base of their neck and as they turn. They often say that it is interfering with their driving when they are trying to change lanes.

They often say that it was caused by the way they “slept funny.” This muscle is more likely to get aggravated when the muscle gets cold while they “sleep funny.”

This muscle can be stressed by things that suddenly or chronically pull the head forward. Those activities include an unusual sports weekend that involves looking up, like rock climbing. They may have been lifting things while looking up to put them on a shelf.

One client complained of aggravating it while awkwardly sitting and working on their laptop on, well, their lap. They were folded forward for a long time craning their neck down while typing. There is a problem with one of the upper ribs that perpetuates this trigger point. Trying to breathe while pulling the head forward and bending the torso forward is commonly involved.


When I ask if they have texted or looking straight down at something, they will sometimes realize that they have a new smartphone or were using their phone more than usual.  This is worsened when the hips are pulled forward in the chair and the muscles of the neck are used to pull the shoulders up while breathing.

Forward-Head Posture makes the activation of this trigger point more likely and more often. The stretches in the self-care section can help with this.


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.


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.



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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