Headaches are often triggered and/or aggravated by a constellation of muscles of the neck that contain taut bands, trigger points and other dysfunctional segments. Understanding the relationships between these muscles helps determine approaches for treatment and as well as self-care.

The muscles of the neck are part of a myofascial system that includes not only an anatomical but also a functional continuum. This means that a dysfunction of one muscular portion will result in a functional alteration of all the muscles of the neck. This must be taken into account for a successful resolution of the problem.

Major Muscle Groups

There are three groups of muscles that cause much of this pain directly. In addition, these muscles tend to cause satellite trigger points and dysfunctional patterns in other muscles of the head, neck, shoulder and arm.

Sternocleidomastoid – The two different branches of the SCM, the “sternal” (pictured above) and the “clavicular” provide direct referral patterns that cover large areas of the face and head. Dysfunction in the SCM can cause headaches, facial pain and autonomic responses such as changes to the function or perception of the eyes and ears. This includes tearing, fluttering of the eyelids, unilateral deafness, tinnitus and vertigo.

Even worse, the SCM tends to induce satellite disturbances in other muscles within its referral zone.  An unhappy SCM can cause a cascade of problems.