A headache can refer to several different types of head discomfort and pain. Patients may feel the headache on one or both sides of the head (unilateral and bilateral headache respectively). The headache can be constant, episodic or intermittent. For example, some acute headaches appear all of a sudden and disappear fast, whereas chronic headaches may last for weeks, or keep on returning at the same place. The location of the headache varies; it can be at the front or back of the head, or in the temple. Here, we'll discuss possible causes of headache in back of head.
10 Possible Causes of Headache in Back of Head
1. Tension Headache
Tension headaches are characterized by mild to moderate diffuse aches that can feel as though a band is tightening around your head. They are the most frequent type of headache, but the underlying cause is somewhat unknown. There are two main types of tension headache: episodic and chronic. Patients with tension headaches can experience the following signs and symptoms:
- A dull ache inside the head
- Tightness and pressure over the forehead, sides, and back of the head
- A tender feeling within the scalp, neck and shoulders
2. Cervicogenic Headache
This is an unusual type of headaches, as the pain doesn't actually originate in the head. Rather, the pain comes from the neck but seems as though it's happening in your head. It is also termed as a secondary headache – these are headaches resulting from a different illness or physical problem in the neck than an issue in the head. The pain of cervicogenic headache travels upwards to give you a headache in back of head.
3. Dehydration Headache
When you do not have sufficient fluid to function properly, dehydration occurs. This can result in potentially fatal complications, such as seizures and blood clots. Dehydration can also cause headache in back of head. This is because the brain is positioned inside a fluid-filled sack to cushion it. If the amount of liquid in this sack decreases due to dehydration, the brain may bump against the skull, leading to headaches. You can measure dehydration by looking at the color of your urine. It should be colorless or pale yellow. Darkened urine indicates you're dehydrated.
4. Occipital Neuralgia
This is a neurological disorder when the nerves travelling from the base of your neck up to the scalp (the occipital nerves) become injured or inflamed. The pain is often described as jabbing – like an electric shock to the rear of the head and neck. Patients may also feel:
- Throbbing, burning, and aching feelings from the base of the head to the scalp
- Pain in one or both sides of the head, or behind the eyes
- Scalp tenderness
- Increased pain when moving the neck
The following video shows massaging techniques to treat this headache:
The term migraine is used to refer to recurring moderate to severe headaches commonly associated with other autonomic nervous system symptoms. Patients frequently have severe throbbing and pulsing feelings in a specific region in the head, often along with nausea and vomiting, plus intense light and sound sensitivity. One study showed that around 40% migraine patients have headache in back of head, and sometimes in the neck. Other scientists have found that neck pain becomes more common if the intense of your migraine is increased.
6. Physical Stimulus
Headache can be prompted by a number of physical stimuli. If you can change your surroundings, you may find your headaches disappear. However, if you cannot control the physical stimuli, speak to your doctor. You can get headaches from orgasm, high altitudes, cough, dialysis, playing pool or snooker for too long. Other physical conditions, like cardiac cephalalgia (referred heart pain), hypnic headache (a headache that wakens you from sleep), neck-tongue syndrome (stimulated by rotating the head with pain radiated to the tongue), and low pressure headache because of spontaneous intracranial hypotension, can also lead to headache in back of head.
7. A Trapped Nerve
If your nerves become trapped by muscles, bones or blood vessels, there would cause headache. Trapped nerve conditions causing headaches include C-2 neuralgia from lateral atlantoaxial joint disease, occipital condyle syndrome, accessory nerve palsy, hypoglossal nerve palsy, and vascular loop compression of the upper cervical nerve roots. These types of headache can be very painful, so for proper management, you should speak to your physician. He or she may be able to relieve your pain by treating the underlying health condition.
8. Structure Disease of the Junction Between Head and Neck
If the head and neck joint is compromised, this can lead to headaches. There are two major conditions of this type. Chiari malformation is precipitated by sneezing, laughing, coughing, or any kind of exertion. Patients typically have headache in back of head. Conversely, in bulbo cervical cavernoma, the back-of-head pain is related to the presence of a vascular lesion in the upper part of the spinal cord.
9. Idiopathic Conditions
Sometimes the pain can originate in the head itself – these types of headache are known as idiopathic headaches. There are many different types of idiopathic headache with the pain in the back of the head, including epicrania fugax, nummular headache, cluster headache, and hemicrania continua. There is also a condition termed new daily persistent headache, which also belongs to this type and can cause a headache for several months.
10. Other Diseases
There are also many health ailments that can lead to headache in back of head. For example, patients suffering from retropharyngeal tendinitis, Parkinson's disease, a brain tumor, sleep apnea, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, dengue fever, adult aqueductal stenosis, or an overactive thyroid gland, may also experience headache in this location.