Here's a very interesting hypothesis I found in Dr Maskin's brilliant book, Reversing Dry Eye Syndrome.

Referred eye pain (occipital neuralgia)

He suggests that occipital tenderness, caused by tense muscles at the base of the skull and neck, can cause pain in the eyes.


Greater occipital neuralgia (greater occipital nerve) arises from the occiput and may radiate anterior to the ipsilateral eye. Local anesthetic injection of the greater occipital nerve may relieve the pain. [Source]

Posterior occipital neuralgia is pain originating from the base of your skull that often wraps around to the front of the head and behind the eyes. The pain is due to inflamed or damaged occipital nerves in your neck. Pain can be severe and chronic and can affect one or both sides of your head.[Source]

This pain can be effectively diagnosed with an injection of lidocaine, a local anaesthetic. 

Treatment: massage and heat application.

Once the underlying causes of your pain are determined, in most cases your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) will prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation, muscle relaxants to stop spasms, physical therapy, massage, heat, and rest.

Patients usually recover fully from posterior occipital neuralgia once the pain has subsided and any damage to the nerves has been reduced or repaired. [Source]


1) Detailed description:

So many of my patients present with vague headaches and pain around the eyes. Well, it usually originates at the back of the neck. There is a twig of the trigeminal nerve (the sensory nerve of the had and neck) that connects to the tendon at the base of the skull. Lifting, cradling the phone, straining, grimacing during an examination, whiplash and even emotional tension can cause a knot at the base of the skull on either side of the cervical spine. This knot causes the eye pain and headaches and only needs to be recognized to be relieved.

If you have chronic sharp or dull pain that seems to arise deep in the eye, think Occipital Neuralgia, which is what this syndrome is called. You may know it as a tension headache. The pain can actually be referred pain to the forehead, jaw, ear or entire head. Many doctors and dentists don’t realize the remote source of the pain so you must be aware of this common syndrome. You can actually feel the knot in the neck and in the shoulder; then press firmly with two fingers. This will elicit neck discomfort and often exacerbate your eye pain. The ultimate treatment is deep tissue massage and not chiropractic or physical therapy.

I would suspect that each of you has experienced a tension headache. Now you know what to do…get a massage. [Source]

2) Neck massage

Your neck muscles go to the top of your head for its movements. The nerves for your eyes go to the back of your head, right past those muscles. When the muscles are tight they press into the nerves to cause pain to be felt on the back of the eyeball.

To get rid of both these problems you have to free up the muscles in your neck. Put your hands alongside your head so your thumbs are on the front of the muscle under your ear and your fingers are on the back of the muscle behind your neck. Squeeze your thumb and fingers together and hold.

Relax your body. When your fingers and thumb touch, about two minutes, slowly lower your head as far as you can, release the pressure but hold your neck lowered for another 30 seconds. 

For best results relax your body first by taking a deep breath and exhaling then remain this relaxed.

3) Facial Yoga

Details here:

4) Avoid tight neck:

Stiff neck and shoulder muscles will reduce blood flow to your head and eyes, which can damage the eyes. [Source]

5) Stress can cause dry eyes

Stress can cause changes in your body, as well as your emotions. Some of the common symptoms include dry eyes [Source]


14 Responses to “Can tight neck muscles cause dry eye/ eye strain symptoms?”

  1. Liang says:

    Thanks for your post. I suffer tight neck and top (next to eyes) head.
    My English is not so good. Do you have a photo about:
    "Put your hands alongside your head so your thumbs are on the front of the muscle under your ear and your fingers are on the back of the muscle behind your neck. Squeeze your thumb and fingers together and hold.
    Relax your body. When your fingers and thumb touch, about two minutes, slowly lower your head as far as you can, release the pressure but hold your neck lowered for another 30 seconds. "
    Thanks a lot.


    • sabhlok says:

      Sorry, I don’t have a photo, but I basically grind hard any sore spot on the back of the neck.


  2. roadnorth says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I actually saw an opthalmologist today for my eye pain. I have had iritis in the past and wanted to make sure I was not having another episode. I actually told the MD that I had a huge knot in my right shoulder that I felt was causing my eye pain and blurred vision, but she did not address this. It truly feels that every time my knot gets bad, I get the eye pain. All this time I thought that maybe I was crazy, so coming across this article was a great relief.


    • sabhlok says:

      I’m almost certain there is a connection between neck and eyeball muscles, but I’m now not focusing on neck issues, but cheek, nose and eyelid muscles. These, too, are strained in my case.


  3. moochi says:

    I wanted to thank you for this article.  I had a feeling that my eye strains were caused by referred pain around my shoulders and neck (both body parts always hurt at the same time).  I try to massage those areas as much as I can but there are actually some exercises that can relieve eye pain too.  Resting is actually one of my top choices.  It's difficult to not accumulate stress nowadays, everyone in my class experiences this around exam time!


  4. Joe says:

    What kind of exercises do you recommend for cheek, nose and eyelid muscles?


  5. Martin Mintál says:

    Thank you very much for the excellent article ! I have been suffering from mild to severe pain behind my eyes for many years…. and from stiff neck muscles too (programmer job), but did not know, these two could be related.


    • rebecca says:

      have you seen the doctor and receive any treatment? hows your eye pain now? as i m now also suffering the neck pain and pain behind eye also


      • sabhlok says:

        I’m BEYOND SICK of doctors. The most unethical community that has NO INTEREST in learning. But that’s a different matter.

        It is now nearly one year since I have stopped using all eye drops. Incrementally I’m getting better despite punishing schedule of over 12 hours computer work each day.

        If you have eye strain, please note it is NOT just eye muscles. But cheek/nose/eyebrow, etc. muscles. Also neck.

        The solution is MASSIVE stretches and hard pressing with fingers wherever you can (without of course pressing the eyeball@)


  6. Deantha Hall says:

    This is the most spot on article Ive read about my problems. I had a sudden sharp pain shoot up from my shoulder into my head one night while lying in bed. Ever sense then I cant move my neck right and have had that strained feeling behind my eyes. Ive always had back and neck issues so I didnt think much about it but the eye thing was new. I just started to wonder if they were related and I found your article. So helpful, thanks for posting.


  7. Ranoco says:

    Thank you for this info. Im really lost as to what is going in the muscles around my eyes. It really freaks me out but after reading this, im sorta notice that my problem precipiatated when i started excersising my neck, and i think Ive done it a wrong way. Thank you so much. 


  8. Veni says:

    Thank you so much. I've visited 10 over eye specialist. I browsed a lot on eye pain and what could cause it but never come through this article. After a year, now when I slowly realize stiffness in my head muscle and jaw, and when I browse with keyword (yoga excercise to relax head muscle) I found this article! I wish your article could be tracked so much earlier. Anyway, Thanks a lot. (I too not so clear with the excercise) wish you can explain clearer.  God bless.


  9. Shelly says:

    I would like to know if you could tell me if this is the same. I don't have pian but when I look down for a while and raise my head everything is blurry. I broke my shoulder 2 years ago and I have very bad spasams. When I had a MRI done they found buldging dics in c3 c4 and c5 and c6. all the musculs in my neck and shoulder are so messed up that the physical therapist can not do anything for me. they tried traction and the neck popped and the back of my head went num and the ring finger and little fingure whee num. and when they sat me up I was very dizzy. I want to know if the blurred vission could be coming from everything that is going on in my shoulder and neck



  10. neha says:

    how do we find out whether we have knots in the shoulder?


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