Splenius Cervicis Migraines Blurred Vision Headache in Eye

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Migraines? Headache in Your Eye? Blurred Vision?Could it be a Trigger Point?

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This month we will look at a powerful demonstration of how a simple trigger point can cause incredibly uncomfortable effects in the body, such as the pain and visual disturbances of the migraine headache.  In previous issues of Muscle News, we have talked about trigger points in the Trapezius (the “migraine maker” muscle) causing aching pain on one side of the head. 

In this issue, we will talk about the fascinating and often more debilitating problem of visual disturbancessuch as blurred vision and severe pain on the back of the eyeball itself.  The muscle responsible for these nearly insufferable aspects of the migraine complex is called the Splenius Cervicis.

The referred pain chart here shows that while the Splenius Cervicis muscle may be located in the neck, much of the pain it causes is in the head.  Specifically, the pain is experienced deep within the skull (indicated by the translucent shading) reaching from the back of the head up and forward and concentrating sharply right at the back of the eyeball.

The fascinating part of this phenomenon is that the pain referral affects muscles of the eye, including the muscle that adjusts the shape of the lens for focus.  As a result, a trigger point in the Splenius Cervicis can cause problems focusing the eye on that side resulting in aggravating blurred vision.  This visual disturbance is one of the most debilitating aspects of the migraine complex, making it hard to tolerate having the eyes open at all unless it is completely dark.

Let’s take a look at the anatomy of the Splenius Cervicis briefly.  As shown here, it starts in the upper back at the top of the thoracic spine.  Then it reaches up on both sides to grab onto the transverse processes of the vertebrae in the neck.  When it contracts, the neck extends backward and rotates to the same side.  Thus when we need to stretch this muscle, we will tilt the head forward and turn toward the opposite side.

If there are problems with these motions, either pain or restricted flexibility, it could mean the Splenius Cervicis has myofascial trigger points (the most common sites are indicated by the white X’s).  This concept forms the basis of our self-tests and self-care shown below.

If someone you know suffers from these symptoms, make sure to show them these simple steps to see if a trigger point could be the source of their misery!

 

*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional.  Please consult your physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.

 

2 Tests to Determine if You Have TP’s in Your Spenius Capitis:Test #1:  Chin to Chest Test
      PASS                            Not PASSING

For this test, tuck your chin to your chest without opening your mouth.  A passing result is when the chin touches the chest with the mouth closed.  A not passing result is when the chin does not reach the chest with the mouth closed.  If this is the case, use your fingers to measure the distance between your chest and your chin.  If two fingers or more fit in between, you are highly likely to have myofascial trigger points in your Splenius Cervicis.

Test #2:  Head Rotation Test

       

 PASS                    Not PASSING

Standing or sitting upright, turn your head to the side as far as you are able without straining or causing pain.  A Passing result is when the head turns without pain far enough so that the nose is over the shoulder (80-90 degrees rotation, as shown).  A Not Passing result occurs when the head is unable to rotate far enough or there is pain while trying to turn the head.


3-Step Simple Self-Care Remedies

The myofascial health of your Splenius Capitis Muscle is in your hands!  If any of the tests above were positive for myofascial trigger points, the following self-care instructions can benefit you significantly.  Spending a few minutes a day can reduce headache, migraine pain, eye pain and visual disturbance, as well as improve the structural health of your neck.

Step 1:  Warming Up with Moist Heat (very important for headaches!)

Heat works wonders for the Splenius Cervicis.  Perform a good gentle stretch in the shower, as depicted here before beginning your self-care compression.  Tuck your chin to your chest and rotate the head to the opposite side of the eye pain.  Let the water fall on the neck and relax the muscles.  NOTE:  Some sufferers of migraines find heat intolerable.  This is often due to entrapment of a suboccipital nerve by a muscle called the Splenius Capitis.  If heat aggravates your pain, cold may be a better solution until you have resolved the trigger points causing the entrapment.  Come in for an appointment and we will help you with this resolution.
Step 2:  Compression

The best tool by far for treating the Splenius Cervicis is the Backnobber.

This tool works fabulously for trigger points in the Splenius Cervicis.  It is often very effective to put the muscle on the stretch during compression.  You may want to start by simply tucking the chin to the chest and compressing the full length of the muscle.  Search for tender spots and compress to comfortable level 8 – 10 seconds per tender spot or approximately 2-3 full breaths in and out.  Ideally, you will also add rotation away from the side you are treating, as shown, for a most effective compression release.

Step 3:  Stop Activating It!Unfortunately, modern living often puts the Splenius Cervicis in a compromised position.  Two of the most common aggravating postures include squinting at a computer screen (as shown) and sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side (as shown).  If you avoid these postures, you will reduce the likelihood of suffering from headaches in your eye and the visual disturbances of the migraine complex.

There are so many suffering these symptoms unnecessarily.  Please pass this information on to anyone you know who is in pain!

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