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Tension Headaches? It May Be Your Traps!

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Written By Holly Gish

If stress, long hours at a desk, or maintaining the same position during the day is causing pain, it may be your traps! A headache in the back of the head can be a nuisance, disrupting your day and sometimes preventing you from carrying out normal activities. But there IS something you can do about it!

Headache in the back of the head: Understanding the Causes

Headache trigger points occur when a group of muscles become stressed. Tension along any of the following muscle groups can cause tension pain or headaches. Use this guide to find what’s causing your pain!:

The trapezius (“trap”) runs through the mid and upper back and has a trigger point located at the top of the muscle. It can cause pain in the temples and back of the head, as well as the jaw. (1)

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Splenius muscles run from the upper back to the base of the skull and the upper cervical vertebrae, and if the trigger points are activated, they can cause headaches that move through the head to the back of the eye and top of the head. (1)

The sternocleidomastoid muscle runs from the base of the skull behind the ear down to the top of the sternum, and when triggered, this muscle can cause pain felt deep in the eye and over the eye, as well as dizziness, nausea, and difficulty balancing. (1)

The suboccipital muscle group consists of four small muscles that maintain proper movement and position between the first cervical vertebra and the base of the skull. These trigger points create a pain that feels as though it is inside the head and extends from the back of the head to the eyes and forehead. (1)

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Learn to identify where the pain is originating, and you can start to prevent it! Use these additional tips for better pain management:

  • Manage stress levels and take frequent movement breaks

  • Altering your diet to avoid inflammatory foods that contain high sodium amounts, artificial sweeteners, and MSG.

  • Start a headache diary to record when the pain begins. Note what you ate and drank when it occurred, as well as your workload.

  • Stretch tight neck and shoulder muscles regularly. Strengthen back and core muscles to help maintain proper posture.

    When you are able to understand what causes your headaches, you can work to prevent future headaches from occurring! Follow our Trap Therapy Series to help relieve stress, tension, and pain!


If tension headaches and tight neck & shoulder muscle are keeping you in constant pain, book a consultation today with one of our physical therapists- and start feeling relief!


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