Trigger points are a pain in the neck

If you experienced severe pain in your hand, would it occur to you that the problem was really in your neck? We all know the phrase “ a pain in the neck, ” but if you have myofascial trigger points in your neck muscles, it is probably the last place you will actually feel anything.

Because trigger points in the neck muscles refer pain to many other parts of the body, they are very difficult to diagnose, and many people continue to experience agonizing pain or other symptoms because they cannot find the source of the problem.

The most common muscle group to experience neck triggers is the scalene group, three muscles known as scalene anterior, scalene media, and scalene posterior. These muscles attach the bones of the neck to the top of the rib cage, and trigger points in any of them can cause pain in a variety of places.

Impact of triggers on the neck

The pattern of pain caused by spasms in the scalene muscle group varies greatly from person to person and can also change from day to day for the same person.

Generally, the pain from scalene triggers will spread to the chest, along the arms and hands, to the upper back, and to the side of the head. Shooting pains in the arms and hands are common, but stabbing pains in the upper body are more likely. Scalene muscle strain can also cause a variety of other various symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Sinus problems
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Tennis elbow
  • Voice changes
  • Hearing problems
  • Difficulty to swallow
  • Tooth bread

Treatment of neck triggers

Stretching the scalene muscles can be very beneficial, especially in combating headaches, but before attempting stretches, it is a good idea to try to massage existing trigger points so that the stretching does not make them worse.

The scalene muscles can be found within a triangular area between the clavicle, the trapezius muscle of the shoulder, and the throat muscles in a V shape. This area should be massaged very gently with the fingertips rather than the tips. Use small circles to find the muscle bands and loosen if you feel the pulse of the carotid artery or jugular vein.

Massaging this area can feel strange and a bit uncomfortable to begin with, and pressing a trigger point can initially feel hot and sharp. However, with gentle pressure, you should eventually feel a warning pain that spreads through your entire arm, shoulder, and head, showing that the massage is working.

Once you’ve deactivated your scalene muscle triggers through massage, a daily stretch can be very effective in relieving symptoms. The best stretch for scalene muscles is very simple:

  1. In a standing position, clasp your hands behind your back.
  2. Lower your left shoulder and tilt your head to the right.
  3. Roll your head back until you feel a stretch in your scalene muscles.
  4. Hold for ten to fifteen seconds and repeat on the other side.

Neck trigger point prevention

One of the main causes of myofascial points in the scalene muscle group is poor posture, especially sitting incorrectly at a desk all day. Continuously tilting the head up or down, turning to the side, or leaning the shoulders forward can place undue stress on the scalene muscles that contribute to trigger points.

These tips on correct posture at your desk should help reduce pain caused by neck strain:

  • Make sure your computer screen is at the correct height so you don’t have to look up or down. If you are using a laptop, make sure you have a separate monitor or docking station.
  • Make sure your computer screen is directly in front of you so you don’t have to twist your neck to see it and you can keep your head in a neutral position.
  • Use a lower back support that will automatically push your shoulders back and prevent you from slipping forward onto your desk.
  • Alter your seat height so your feet are flat on the floor, or use a foot stool. If your feet are too far off the floor, you will lean forward to compensate, misaligning your upper body and increasing pressure on your neck.

Pain and other problems caused by triggers in the scalene muscles can be very difficult to diagnose because the only place that does not appear to be affected is the neck. However, gentle massage of the scalene area and regular stretching, combined with good posture, can work together to limit the impact of trigger points on the neck.