top of page

Secret Headache Source?

Headaches are a very common problem among the patients we help on a daily basis, and there can be a secret source of these headaches! The most common causes of headache can be the upper trapezius, suboccipital muscles, deep neck muscles, or non-muscular causes. However, the infraspinatus muscle of the shoulder can be a sneaky culprit for stubborn headache and neck pain! Let’s take a look at this muscle to learn more:

This muscle is one of the 4 rotator-cuff muscles and is responsible for controlling shoulder stability and externally rotating the arm. It sits on the back of your shoulder blade in a little trough. However, it has a trigger-point referral pattern that may be of interest to us:

See those red dots up at the base of the skull? There aren’t many in this referral pattern chart, which indicates it is a less likely pattern to observe in patients, but it does still occur. In my own experience, this muscle can refer pain all the way up the neck, into the head, and even around the front near the eye. We have a rough understanding of how trigger points and referral patterns work, but this one is certainly unique! Physiologically, there aren’t many reasons why this muscle should be a headache generator. But we don’t need to know the reasons to get relief!

The most effective way to work on this muscle yourself is using a lacrosse ball or trigger point release device. This can be a cane, hook, or any device you have acquired over the years. You will want to apply pressure to this muscle and allow it to twitch and relax. You may even feel some reproduction of your symptoms when doing this! That is a great sign, since you’ve found the magic spot.

One other note. I often don’t recommend aggressive or intense self treatment techniques. However, I have found that infraspinatus in particular sometimes will only respond to more point-specific pressure. For instance, you may need to find the corner of a surface, such as a mantle, windowsill, or countertop to dig into this muscle. Just remember, the more pointy or sharp the object, the less pressure you should use. We don’t need to cause bruises or anything worse to get relief!

If your self treatment doesn’t completely resolve your symptoms, you may need some help from a therapist to get it completely gone. A quick dry needling session or two may be all you need to get back to normal!

Need help? Reach out to us today to get your headache-free-life back!

Thanks for reading,



Häggström, Mikael (2014). "Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014". WikiJournal of Medicine1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN2002-4436


bottom of page