MYOFASCIAL PAINHeadaches and Myofascial Pain
About 80% of headaches in the general population are tension headaches, which are headaches caused by a sustained contraction of the neck-shoulder or face muscles. Even migraines, which account for another 13% of all headaches, frequently occur together with tension headaches and improve significantly when tension headaches are resolved.
How can tight muscles cause headaches?
What is myofascial pain?
If any muscle in your body tightens up and maintains that tension for a long period of time, it will eventually develop knots or nodule-like spots inside it. These knots are easy to find because in addition to having a distinct, nodule-like texture, they are tender when pressure is applied to them. These tender knots within a contracted muscle are called myofascial trigger points. (Myo means muscle, and fascia is the connective tissue that holds muscles together.)
Although trigger points are sensitive to pressure, they initially don’t cause any problems. Yet over time, myofascial trigger points start producing a sensation of pain in distant sites. That type of pain is called referred pain, because it originates from places outside of where you perceive it.
Pain referred from myofascial trigger points is called myofascial pain. If left untreated, myofascial pain may become chronic and develop into a condition known as myofascial pain syndrome or myofascial pain disorder.
Each muscle in the body tends to develop myofascial trigger points in specific locations. And each trigger point has a specific, predictable and reproducible pattern of pain referral.
Trigger points in the neck muscles refer pain to various areas of the head and trigger points in the face muscles refer pain to the head and face.
Below are some examples of referral patterns for specific trigger points in the neck muscles associated with tension headaches. The black x sign indicates a trigger point within a muscle and areas marked in red illustrate where that trigger point sends referred pain: