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Trigger point needling is a treatment approach where a needle is inserted into a tight area or ‘trigger point’ in a muscle. The aim of this treatment is to get a twitch or a jump in the muscle. This is a treatment approach commonly used to treat many injuries where muscle pain or tightness is an issue. This can include injuries such as calf strains, hamstring strains, tennis elbow and back pain.
One surprising thing about the muscle of the neck and shoulder, is that these can sometimes be a source of head pain or headache. Muscles of the neck can develop trigger points for many different reasons. These can include: poor posture, excessive laptop use, trauma, such as a car accident. If these muscles develop trigger points, pain can be referred to the head.
Look at the images below to see where different muscles of the neck can refer pain. The X shows you where the trigger points are commonly located and the red shows where pain can be referred to.
Suboccipital muscle trigger point Trapazius Muscle trigger point Sternocleidomastoid muscle
During the examination of the neck these muscles will be felt for tightness. If there is tightness present the physiotherapist may maintain pressure on the area to see if pain is referred into the head. If this pressure reproduces your headache then release of this muscle will be included in your physiotherapy. Depending on various factors these muscles may be released with manual therapy or dry needling. This treatment can often have great success in reducing head pain which comes from tight neck muscles. Other treatments such as strengthening and stretching exercises, posture re-education and advice on ergonomics may also be included.
It is important to note that there are numerous different types of headaches. Head pain referred from neck muscles and cervicogenic headache arising from the joints of the upper cervical spine and are the main types amenable to physiotherapy treatment. If your physiotherapist does not feel your headache is arising from your neck you may be sent back to your GP. If you are unsure what is the cause of your headache, you may need to visit your GP before coming to physiotherapy. Please contact us for further information.