Migraines & Myofascial Trigger Points

By Shawn VanWinkle, D.C., D.A.C.N.B

Migraines are a serious debilitating condition that has significant impact on ability to function with daily activities during an attack. Today, I’m going to discuss the relevance of myofascial trigger points in regards to migraines and how treatment can help reduce or eliminate the symptoms of a migraine.
Myofascia is a term used to describe a muscle and the connective tissue found within and around the muscle1. Myofascial trigger points are a common source of pain. When pressed they will increase pain locally and will also result in referring pain to another part of the body1. Trigger points will also cause the muscle to shorten and tighten up resulting in a weak muscle1. This will also lead to decreased flexibility of the muscle, possibly irritate nearby nerves and create muscle imbalances leading to more trigger points1. It is believed that some of these trigger points found in the head and neck can trigger or contribute to migraine symptoms1–3.

Causes of Trigger Points

  • Repetitive movements
  • Sustained loading/lifting
  • Poor posture/sedentary lifestyle
  • Mental/emotional stress causing muscle tension
  • Direct trauma

According to Calandre et al, trigger points with referral patterns related to the site of migraine pain were found in 94% of migraine sufferers in their study4. The frequency and duration of the migraine attacks were also correlated with the trigger points with common sources coming from muscles of the jaw and base of the skull4. It is also believed that the trigger points increase activity in pain pathways leading to increased efficacy of pain perception in the brain2–4. Treatment directed at inactivating these trigger points is beneficial in reducing the symptoms of migraines2,4. The good news is that there are methods to detect and treat myofascial trigger points that may be related to your migraine symptoms. When looking for a health care practitioner to help you with your migraines, you should ask if they are skilled in both trigger point release and myofascial release.

  1. Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy – What Is It? http://www.myofascialtherapy.org/myofascial-therapy/index.html.
  2. Fernández-de-Las-Peñas C. Myofascial Head Pain. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2015;19(7):28. doi:10.1007/s11916-015-0503-2.
  3. Giamberardino MA, Tafuri E, Savini A, et al. Contribution of myofascial trigger points to migraine symptoms. J Pain. 2007;8(11):869-878. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2007.06.002.
  4. Calandre EP, Hidalgo J, García-Leiva JM, Rico-Villademoros F. Trigger point evaluation in migraine patients: an indication of peripheral sensitization linked to migraine predisposition? Eur J Neurol. 2006;13(3):244-249. doi:10.1111/j.1468-1331.2006.01181.x.

Copyright © 2017 Colorado Integrative Neurology. All Rights Reserved. Shawn VanWinkle, D.C., D.A.C.N.B. is a Doctor at Colorado Integrative Neurology. To learn more about how we can help you with your health goals visit our website at www.coloradointegrativeneurology.com or email us at cin@coloradointegrativeneurology.com. A free initial consultation can be scheduled by calling our office at (720) 328-5076.