Headaches can be caused by a number of things.

This article will cover several causes which are seldom treated with today's traditional approaches, but which a practitioner with good training and good hands, can usually remedy.

"It's been said that practitioners in the medical community take approximately 10 years to catch up with the medical research. In the case of trigger points, and Myofascial Pain Syndromes, that rule of thumb has been far too optimistic". -  Devin J. Starlanyl, MD

 Two highly effective and little-known methods which treat headaches are Neuromuscular therapy (NeuorSomatic therapy) and Craniosacral therapy. The approach we use depends on where the patient's precise complaints of pain are, their history, and results of our physical assessment. This information can also be used to find the cause and select an appropriate treatment.

Some examples:

  • An injury to a distant muscle may refer pain into the head (for example: whiplash).
  • Postural distortion will overload a series of muscles, which may refer symptoms into the head.
  • An accident, blow to the head, or tail bone injury can cause internal membranes to tighten inside the spine and pull in the skull.
  • An emotional issue may be the culprit.
  • General stress will tighten muscles, which can cause pain in the head.
  • A jamming in the neck and skull area, (O/A joint) can restrict blood flow and nerve function in the head.

Any muscle in the body can develop what we call a trigger point, and each one has a different, but often predictable, pain pattern.

There was a Doctor Travell  (JFK's whitehouse Dr.)  in the 1960s who did a tremendous amount of muscle research, documenting the existence and behaviour of trigger points, and how they referred pain into different parts of the body. Unfortunately most medical schools don't teach her important work and muscle referred pain often goes undiagnosed (and certainly untreated).

For a personal experience, grab the large muscle on top of your shoulder that runs towards your neck (trapezius muscle) and give it a squeeze. Work around in the muscle fibers a bit. Did you feel anything? Some people won't feel anything, many people will feel a very specific tender spot, and of those that did, 30% will feel sensations all the way up in the head. Some of you may feel a really familiar distinct headache behind your eye, or up behind the ear as you squeezed the muscle. This is how a trigger point behaves.

Remember this is only one of a dozen muscles that can fire pain into the head!

A trigger point is actually a pool of lactic acid and other waste product chemicals in the muscle. It may feel like the size of a grain of sand, a pea, or a quarter.

Before I go further, I'm going to explain what a reflex arc is so that it is easier to understand the whole picture. Let's say that you reach your hand out and you touch a hot stove by accident. Your hand pulls away from the heat automatically doesn't it, you do not even have to think about doing it. It just happens.

What's happening is that when you touch the hot stove a signal travels from your finger tip up your arm to one spinal cord segment in your upper back (not your brain) and there the signal is amplified tenfold.

This strong signal now gets fired out in many different directions.

First of all, it fires to your arm muscles and causes it to contract which pulls your hand away from the hot stove. That of course is a good thing as it prevents you from getting burnt further.

What also happens is that a signal from the spinal cord fires into the blood vessels in the arm and tells them to contract, so that if you were cut badly for example, you wouldn't bleed to death.

Now that signal also fires out of the spinal cord to organs and glands, and it would probably fire to the Adrenal Glands in this case, and you would get adrenaline in your blood stream, so that you could run out of the house if it were a dangerous fire and not a simple finger burn. This is a good protective mechanism of the body, triggered by a reflex arc.

OK - now back to the trigger point!

Upon developing this tender spot in the shoulder muscle (or any muscle), it starts to fire rapid neurological signals into the spinal cord and gets into the same circuitry that I just described (affecting the muscle, blood vessels and organs).

And, specifically in the case of that shoulder muscle, it fires a signal up to the spine and back telling it to tighten up more.

It also fires up behind the proximal ear and around the side of the head, ending behind the eye. This causes restricted blood flow and probably active pain, tingling or numbness in that area. All of this - coming from the trapezius muscle.

I, as a therapist, would put a little bit of pressure on the trigger point for 3 to 12 seconds. What I'm doing is directly interfering with the neurological signal into the spinal cord, and thus the patient will feel the discomfort begin to leave the shoulder.

While that is happening, the headache will also start to disappear. The blood supply to the muscle and behind eye will improve. If any signals were going into the adrenal glands, the person's disposition will likely improve, as the levels of adrenaline lessen in the body. I have found that when people come out of pain they become a lot happier and friendlier, and in some cases even apologize for how they have acted the first couple treatments sessions.

The red points (on muscle) often refer pain to the highlighted black regions of the head.

(For more thorough details you may want to borrow our video on trigger points, video on headaches, or allow us to explain in person, with the aid of a color charts and anatomical models in a treatment session).

Keep in mind many people who come to see me hold little hope of being helped, and are just coming because a friend (who got help), or their doctor, recommended they come, and they are here to prove they're going to stay in pain!

Another consideration with headaches is the joint between the bottom bone of the skull and the top bone of the neck (O/A joint). The bottom of the skull has many holes were cranial nerves and blood vessels pass through. If this area is jammed it can cause pressure type headaches and nerve interference problems, which would be addressed with various Craniosacral and Nuerosomatic therapy techniques. There are cases of high blood pressure even lowering, with release of this O/A joint.

This can be done in a few different ways; a very effective way is for the therapist to create kind of a wedge with their fingers under the bottom of skull and just let the head fall backward gently and slowly, no jerking, no snapping is done. This work is all non-chiropractic relatively gentle work. As the muscles begin to soften and the occiput (head) comes away from the Atlas (neck), the flows improve and the migraine type of symptoms resolve. As the muscles begin to soften and the occiput (head) comes away from the Atlas (neck), the flows improve and the migraine type of symptoms resolve.

An accident, or a blow to the head or tailbone can cause internal membranes to tighten inside the spine. This dural tube membrane runs the length of the spine then flares out and becomes the inner lining of the skull bones, as well as becoming the membranes which divide the brain into sections. This tube and has the ability to pull or torque on the brain, and the bones of the skull. This causes dysfunctions in the body as well as pain in the head.

These are situations that are addressed with advanced Craniosacral Therapy, using a very light & gentle technique to assess connective tissue restrictions, microscopic electrical conductivity problems, and skull bone movements.

We use various methods on the body to release energy disruptions, on acupuncture meridians, also boosting that innate intelligence which is always trying to self-correct, as well as using intuition and intention. And, of course, precise measuring skills, along with any of your X-rays for references.

An emotional issue may also be behind headaches.

An emotional disturbance, it seems, may be stored in the body's tissue; this often becomes self-evident in craniosacral work. If the patient decides they need that we may use some have emotional release techniques while the patient dialogues or quietly explores inside there own mind. This may allow them to understand the underlying emotional issues behind the physical problems. This SER process is a whole fascinating future article in itself.


The book Your Inner Physician and You is available for sale at our clinics. It contains some case histories, an overview of Craniosacral, Therapy and Somatoemotional Release.

Merrill has studied personally with many mind-body teachers including Deepak Chopra, Dr. Upledger and Dr. Michael Rice, and is a teaching assistant for the Dr. Upledger Institute, and Neuromuscular therapy with Paul St. John. He has been a professional body worker for 15 years and studied mind-body for least 35 years. Merrill and his wife Linda perform therapies including craniosacral somatoemotional release, interactive guided imagery, breath-work, massage, neuromuscular therapy, and neurosomatic therapy.

For an appointment, call: (239) 649-7700