Muscle knots located in the neck and upper back/shoulder area can cause headaches, neck, and other head pain. Muscle knots can cause headaches on the side of the head, the top of the head, behind and over the eye. Muscle knots can also cause jaw pain, tooth pain, TMJ symptoms, and pain within the ear. Muscle knots in the muscle responsible for shrugging the shoulders or bringing the shoulders towards the ear, the upper trapezius, can create a “question mark” headache pattern around the ear.
You may feel stiff and achy neck, headaches, cheek pain, pain around the eye, neck pain at the base of the neck, pain on top and at the back of the head. All of these can be caused by sleeping with head turned causing stretched neck and shoulder muscle, sleeping on the stomach, inadequate head support while reading in bed, elevated shoulders, forward head posture or even stress.
The following are the most common referred pain in the head, neck and shoulder:
The black dots in the illustration refer to muscle knots, which consist of tight and contracted muscle fibers. Rub the muscle knot to allow blood and oxygen to circulate freely to that muscle area. A muscle knot can be actively painful, or you might not even know it exists until you put pressure on it. But make no mistake, when you press on one with just the right amount of pressure, it can make you laugh and cry at the same time because it can “hurt so good”. Press too hard and it can make you cry for mercy.
The red area in the illustration refers to the “referred pain” – meaning, the pain you feel is often not in the location of your trigger point until you press on it. This means that you may feel pain behind the eye, but the trigger point is in the base of your neck. If you gently rub the muscle knot you may feel tenderness in both the muscle and the muscle knot. Sometimes, the referred pain symptoms are able to be reproduced when pressure is applied to the muscle knot.