Are Trigger Points Causing Your Headaches?

Common causes of chronic headaches

C81266-20150112hronic tension/migraine type headaches can have many different causes including TMJ problems, whiplash and postural dysfunctions just to name a few.  Myofascial trigger points in the head and neck are an often overlooked source of headaches. These trigger points not only cause pain, but can cause dizziness and ringing in the ears.

What is a myofascial trigger point?

Myofascial trigger points are hard, taut bands in the muscles that are tender to touch and can cause referred pain to another area. When found in the neck, head, or jaw, they can be a source of limited mobility of the muscles to stretch which can cause decreased flexibility/range of motion of your neck and jaw. They can also affect the muscle’s ability to stabilize your joints efficiently for function.

Why do trigger points form in your head/neck muscles?

Myofascial trigger points can form for a variety of different reasons, including direct trauma to the area (i.e.-whiplash), uneven pressure on these muscles (i.e.-purse or bra straps on upper trap neck muscles), overload from muscle contractions (i.e. neck muscles are commonly overused during abdominal exercises) and muscle imbalances in the neck, mid back and shoulder blades (poor postural habits/stresses being one of the primary drivers of these imbalances, i.e.-slumped sitting postures).

Case scenario: Often a patient presents with rounded shoulders putting excessive strain on the shoulder and neck muscles. This results in a loss of efficient alignment of the head, neck and trunk. Patients will usually have a forward head posture contributing additional stress to the head, neck and jaw muscles. Eventually, the excessive strain on the muscles can cause trigger points to form which in turn become painful and symptomatic. Unless the muscles are treated and the body is re-educated on how to move or position itself, the pain becomes a vicious cycle and in many cases requires continuous use of medication to provide even temporary relief.

Treatment of chronic headaches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhysical therapy includes a combination of trigger point dry needling, manual mobilization techniques and postural/movement training of your daily functional activities that can break the pain cycle and get you feeling good again. Our methodology looks at the whole picture to determine the primary sources of your symptoms which will allow for resolution of your symptoms not just temporary relief. An important part of your treatment is teaching you self-management techniques so that you will control your situation instead of it controlling you. We recommend that you are screened by your physician first to rule out any underlying medical causes especially if you have a sudden onset of headaches or a change in the presentation of your headache symptoms.

Email questions to, and visit our website for more information at and Facebook Page. We have unique physical therapy skills that go beyond most typical healthcare settings and are ready to help you. Call today to make an appointment at Body Mechanics in Pewaukee (262) 695-3057, Downtown Milwaukee (414) 224-8219, and now in Madison (608) 422-5085.

Body Mechanics 4-7-08 #26Sue Smith, PT, CFMT is a skilled physical therapist at our Pewaukee clinic. Check out her bio here: Sue Smith’s bio


bodymechanics locations

807 N. Jefferson
Milwaukee, WI 53202  (map)

1177 Quail Court | Suite 200
Pewaukee, WI 53072  (map)