What causes pain in the back of the head? Is it a serious situation? What should we do to pass? Do you need to see a doctor? You can find the answers to all these questions and much more below.
Is it normal to have pain in the back of the head?
A headache can be the main cause of the pain or a secondary symptom of problems in another part of the body. Some headache symptomsmay manifest as pain, especially in the back of the head . This article focuses on factors that can cause pain in the back of the head. We’ll also take a look at its symptoms, possible treatments, and prevention methods.
Causes of pain in the back of the head
The five most common causes of pain in the back of the head include the following:
Tension headaches usually cause pain in the forehead area, but are also a common cause of pain in the back of the head. Tension headaches are typically felt on both sides of the head (bilateral) rather than occurring on one side of the head and cause a feeling of pressure or tightness. Headaches are mild to moderate and not aggravated by routine exercise such as walking. While tension-type headaches do not cause nausea, they may cause some sensitivity to light or sound. They last from 30 minutes to seven days.
The exact cause of tension headaches is currently unknown, but several factors are potential triggers. These include:
- lack of sleep
- bad posture
- sinus pain
- not drinking enough water
If tension headaches are infrequent, taking pain relievers such as aspirin or acetaminophen is usually sufficient. When they occur more often, lifestyle change and/or alternative treatments may help reduce their frequency and length. Treatment options for tension-type headache include:
- relaxation techniques
- cognitive behavioral therapy
Migraine headaches are a common type of recurrent headache that often begins in childhood and increases in frequency and severity with age. A migraine headache can also be felt as pain in the back of the head. It can occur several times a week in adulthood, especially in women aged 35 to 45 years, and can cause pain in the back of the head.
Common symptoms of migraine include:
- Throbbing in one area of the head or the back of the head
- Nausea and vomiting
- Defect of vision
- Increased sensitivity to light, noise and odor
- sensitive muscles or skin
- Headache that worsens with physical activity
Inflammatory substances that trigger pain sensors in blood vessels and nerves around the head can cause migraines. In addition, various factors specific to each person can trigger migraine attacks. Trigger factors can be emotional, physical, environmental, diet or medication related and include:
- Period or other hormone changes
- anxiety or depression
- Flashing and bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells
- nutritional changes
- Decreased amount and quality of sleep
- Certain types of food, such as cheese, chocolate, and caffeine
- taking birth control pills
To treat migraine, a person should take analgesics such as aspirin or acetaminophen and rest in a dark room. If normal analgesics don’t work, the doctor may prescribe antimigraine medications known as triptans. These drugs cause blood vessels to constrict, which reverses some of the changes in the brain that cause migraines. The sooner the affected person receives treatment for migraine, the more effective the treatment will be.
If a person takes too much pain medication, they may develop headaches from overuse, causing pain in the back of the head. Medication-related headaches are also known as rebound headaches . Occasional use of painkillers does not cause any problems. However, when a person takes pain medication two or more days a week for an extended period of time, this can trigger a headache and feel pain in the back of the head.
Symptoms of drug-induced headaches include:
- Persistent, almost daily headaches
- Headache that gets worse on waking
- Headache that occurs after you stop taking painkillers
Problems with drug-induced headaches include:
- Sleeping state
- lack of energy
- physical weakness
- difficulty concentrating
The best treatment for headaches caused by medication overuse is usually to reduce or stop the pain medication altogether. Headaches will also get worse at first, but will resolve quickly. You can then continue to take regular or preferred pain medications. It is important to see a doctor if the headache is severe and does not go away. A person may need physical or behavioral therapy to break the cycle of using painkillers. For some medications, such as opioids, your doctor will need to recommend a gradual taper in dosage, as stopping some medications immediately can be dangerous.
Occipital neuralgia is a distinct and less common type of headache that tends to start at the base of the neck and radiate to the back of the head, then behind the ears. Occipital neuralgia may also be responsible for pain in the back of the head. This may be due to damage or irritation of the occipital nerves that run from the back of the neck to the base of the scalp. Underlying diseases, neck strain, or other unknown factors can cause damage or irritation.
Pain in occipital neuralgia can be severe. Other symptoms include:
- Constant throbbing and burning pain
- Intermittent severe pain
- The pain is usually on one side of the head and can be triggered by moving the neck
- Scalp tenderness
- light sensitivity
Possible causes of occipital neuralgia include:
- Damage to the spine or discs
- Nerve damage caused by diabetes
- inflammation of blood vessels
Many doctors may confuse occipital neuralgia with a migraine headache or another type of headache. A distinctive feature of occipital neuralgia is the pressure felt in the neck area. Sometimes a doctor can diagnose occipital neuralgia by injecting a local anesthetic close to the occipital nerves and providing a temporary nerve block. If the pain subsides, the doctor will likely diagnose occipital neuralgia. Because occipital neuralgia can be a symptom of other disorders, the doctor may also check for other underlying conditions.
Applying heat packs, resting, massaging, physical therapy, and taking anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or naproxen can help reduce pain levels . If the pain is severe, a person with occipital neuralgia may need to take muscle relaxants or nerve blocking medications by mouth. For severe pain, doctors may recommend injections of local anesthetic or steroids. In rare cases, a person may need surgery to reduce pressure on nerves or block pain messages to this part of the body.
Exercise-induced headaches occur as a result of strenuous physical activity. It starts suddenly, usually occurs after exercise, and can cause pain in the back of the head. A wide variety of exercises, from weightlifting to running, from having sex to straining on the toilet, can trigger this pain. Symptoms include a pulsating pain on either side of the head that can last from 5 minutes to 2 days. These headaches can often also produce migraine-like symptoms.
The cause of exercise-induced headaches is unknown and they usually only occur for 3-6 months. Methods to prevent their recurrence include the following:
- taking pain medication before exercise
- avoiding strenuous activities
- warming up before exercise
- drinking enough fluids
- consuming nutritious foods
- get enough sleep
Treatment for exercise-induced headache consists of using regular headache pain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen , or acetaminophen.
taking a summary
Headaches are common and can affect a person’s quality of life and their ability to perform daily tasks. Many headaches go away without treatment, but some have more serious causes. For this reason, it is recommended that you see your doctor if you have other symptoms along with the headache.