Trigger points and muscle tension are two common causes of tension headaches. Do you ever wonder why your skull feels so painful? It can be quite distressing, especially if it spreads. Here is some information from physiotherapists about possible causes and pain relief.
Table of Contents
- 1 Causes of pain in the back and treatment
- 1.1 Tension headaches
- 1.2 Migraine headaches
- 1.3 Overuse of medication or rebound headache
- 1.4 Occipital neuralgia and Pain at the Base of Skull
- 1.5 Tight Muscle Headaches, Stiff Neck Headache
- 1.6 Coughing Headaches
- 1.7 Sharp Pain in the back of the head after sex
- 1.8 Giant Cell Arteritis, (Temporal Arteritis).
- 1.9 Arthritis Headache
- 1.10 Exercise-induced headaches
- 2 Headache at base of skull causes by tension headaches
- 3 How can you relieve tension headache pain?
- 4 What is the sign of a serious health problem when a headache occurs?
Causes of pain in the back and treatment
Either the headache is the primary cause of pain or it can be a secondary symptom of other problems in the body. Headaches can also be felt in the back.
Let’s take a look at five common causes of pain in your back. We also examine their symptoms, potential treatments, and prevention strategies.
TTH or tension-type headaches (tension) are most commonly associated with forehead pain. However, they are also the most common cause of pain in the back. These headaches can last up to seven days but can be short-lasting, lasting as little as thirty minutes.
These symptoms are indicative of tension-type headaches:
- Exercise does not make the headache worse
- A feeling of tightening around your back or front of your head
- No nausea or vomiting
- Mild to moderate pain, but sometimes severe
If tension headaches are not frequent, taking pain relievers as aspirin and acetaminophen will usually suffice.
If they happen more frequently, lifestyle modifications and/or alternate treatments can help to reduce their frequency or length.
There are many treatment options available:
- Relaxation techniques
- Physical therapy
- Cognitive behavior therapy
Prevention and causes
TTH can be caused by the unknown. However, there are several possible triggers. These factors include:
- Missing meals
- Lack of sleep
- Sinus pain
- Poor posture
- Not drinking enough water
Migraine headaches, a common type of recurring headache, often begin in childhood and get more severe with age.
They can happen several times per week in adulthood, particularly for females between 35 and 45 years.
These are some of the common symptoms of migraine:
- Throbbing, intense pain on one side.
- Visual disturbance
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light, noise, or smell increases
- They can last anywhere from a few hours up to several days
- Tenderness of the muscles and sensitive skin
- They are made worse by physical activity
A migraine headache might be preceded by an “aura”, which is characterized by flashing lights and other visual disturbances.
Basilar migraines can be caused by dizziness, double vision, and poor coordination. Basilar-type migraines can cause headaches at your back, according to Dr. Colin Tidy at patient.info.
Basilar migraines can be caused by the same causes as regular migraines.
Migraine episodes can be triggered by a variety of factors that are unique to each individual.
These factors can be emotional, physical, environmental, or dietary and may include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Certain food types like chocolate and cheese are not suitable for everyone.
- Food insecurity
- Flashing and bright lights, loud sounds, or strong odors
- Menstrual and other hormonal changes
- Inadequate sleep
- Use a contraceptive pill
Treatment and causes
Migraine could be caused by inflammation that triggers pain sensors in blood vessels and nerves of the head.
A person can use analgesics such as acetaminophen or aspirin to treat migraine. They should also rest in a darkened area.
Triptans are antimigraine medications that can be prescribed by doctors if normal analgesics fail to work. These drugs cause blood vessels in the brain to shrink and contract which reverses migraine-causing changes.
The more effective treatment for migraine episodes is the sooner someone seeks it out.
There are steps that can be taken to lower the risk of getting migraines. These steps are:
- Hormone therapy
- Avoiding triggers that can cause you to avoid certain foods and other things is a good way to reduce them.
- Migraine prevention medications are approved by the FDA
- Stress Management, Exercise, Relaxation, and Physical Therapy
- Preventive medication is used to treat epilepsy or depression.
Overuse of medication or rebound headache
If a person takes too many pain relievers, medication-overuse headaches (MOH), may occur. MOH headaches can also be known as rebound headaches.
The occasional use of pain relief is not a problem. A rebound headache or medication overuse can happen if a person uses pain relief medication for more than 2 or more days per week.
The main symptoms are:
- After stopping pain relief, headaches can occur
- Almost daily, persistent headaches
- Walking causes worse pain
MOH also has other problems:
- Concentration difficulties
- Energy deficiency
- Physical weakness
A tapering or complete stoppage of pain medication is the best way to treat a headache caused by medication overuse.
Although headaches may initially get worse, they will soon resolve. The person can then take their usual or preferred pain relief medication.
A doctor should be consulted for more serious cases. To break the cycle of pain relief, an individual might need behavioral or physical therapy.
A doctor may recommend gradual decreases in certain medications such as opioids. It is possible to be fatal if you stop taking some medication immediately.
People should not use pain relief medication for headaches more often than once a week to avoid a medication overload headache. For better treatment and prevention, consult a doctor if you have headaches that require pain medication.
Occipital neuralgia and Pain at the Base of Skull
Occipital neuralgia, a rare and uncommon type of headache, begins at the base of your neck and continues to the back of your head. Finally, it ends behind the ears.
This could be due to irritation or damage to the occipital nervous system, which runs from the base of your scalp to the back of your neck.
Inflammation or damage could be caused by neck tension, underlying conditions, or other unknown factors.
Occipital neuralgia pain can be very severe. You may also experience the following symptoms:
- Constant throbbing, burning pain
- Tenderness of the scalp
- Pain is usually on one side of your head. You can trigger it by moving your neck
- Shooting or intermittent shocks
- Sensitivity to light
A person or a professional may mistake occipital neuralgia for a migraine headache. One distinctive feature is the pain experienced after applying pressure to the scalp and back of the neck.
Occipital neuralgia can sometimes be diagnosed by a doctor injecting a local anesthetic near the occipital nervous system, creating a temporary block. Occipital neuralgia is diagnosed when the pain subsides.
Occipital neuralgia may be a sign of other conditions, so the doctor might also look for other underlying conditions.
Possible causes include:
- Damage to the spine and discs
- Diabetes can cause nerve damage
- Inflammation of blood vessels
Pain relief can be achieved by using heat packs, rest, massage, therapy, or taking anti-inflammatory medication such as naproxen or aspirin. There are many heat packs available online.
Occipital neuralgia sufferers may have to use oral muscle relaxants and nerve-blocking medication if their pain is severe. A doctor may recommend local anesthetics or steroid injections for severe pain.
Rarely, an individual may require surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves and block pain messages from this area of the body.
Tight Muscle Headaches, Stiff Neck Headache
A sharp sensation in the back of your neck or neck, along with stiffness in your neck or shoulders, could be a sign that you are experiencing pain. This could be due to injured or strained muscles.
An injury to your neck may cause headaches in the morning. To alleviate this type of headache, you may need to assess your sleeping position and the pillows that you use.
According to Dr. William H. Bland, WebMD, the main causes of tight muscles that cause pain in the neck and back of the head are:
- For a prolonged time, keep your head in a single position.
- A pillow that does not properly support your head is not a good idea.
- Stress can cause tension
- Tripping, or being involved in an accident can cause injury to the neck and spine.
Tight neck muscles can cause pain in your back when you turn your head.
You may feel a sharp pain in your back when you cough, sneeze or blow your nose. This is called a “coughing headache“.
Avoiding triggers for coughing headaches is the best way to avoid them. Keep your brain healthy to prevent a cold, sneezing, or any other actions that can cause pressure on your brain.
People joke about the relationship between headaches and sexual activity. But, any type of sexual activity can cause dull pain in your neck and back that gets worse with sexual excitement.
This condition is described by the British Journal of Medical Practitioners as “headaches associated with sexual activity” (HSA). HSA is not harmful, but it can cause severe headaches for both of you.
Open communication between you, your partner, and yourself can reduce the risk of getting headaches from sex. Sometimes, a passive role in sex can prevent headaches.
Giant Cell Arteritis, (Temporal Arteritis).
Giant cell arteritis, which is an inflammation of blood vessels around the scalp, can cause a headache that suddenly develops at the temples, top, or back of your head. Your temples may also be swollen.
This can cause severe pain in your head, and painkillers are often ineffective in relieving the pain.
Giant cell arteritis is characterized by headaches. They are caused when the arteries in the brain become inflamed.
The UK’s National Health Service advises people to see their doctor if they suspect that they have giant cell arteritis. Early treatment will help prevent more serious complications.
People with arthritis often experience headaches in their neck and back. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Peter F. Ullrich states that arthritis sufferers often experience headaches in the neck and back.
While arthritis can be difficult to manage, there are many natural treatments for arthritis that will help you get relief from your arthritic pain.
Strenuous exercise can cause headaches. They appear suddenly after or immediately following exercise and quickly become severe.
This pain can be caused by a variety of activities, including running or weight lifting to sexual interaction, and straining on your toilet.
The symptoms include a pulsating sensation on the left and right sides of your head that can last 5 to 2 days. These headaches can be isolated and may cause migraine-like symptoms.
Prevention and causes
These headaches are not known to be caused by any reason. These headaches are usually only experienced for 3-6 months. There are several ways to prevent them from happening.
- Before you exercise, take pain relief medication
- Avoid strenuous activity
- Properly warming up
- Get enough fluids
- Healthy eating
- Sleeping enough
The treatment involves the use of normal pain relief medication such as aspirin and acetaminophen.
Headache at base of skull causes by tension headaches
The suboccipital muscles are located at the base of your skull. Many people can experience headache pain from them.
These four pairs of muscles control subtle movements between your skull and the first and third vertebrae of the neck.
You’ve searched for “headache at base of skull”, “base of neck headache”, “headache in back of head”… Now you want to know what’s causing the pain.
Tension headaches can be caused by muscle tension and trigger points in the neck and head. The muscles that control movement in the neck are all very small.
All of them are responsible for the subtle movements of both the skull and upper cervical spine.
These factors can cause the suboccipital muscles to become tense or tender.
- New eyeglasses
- Poor posture
- Grinding your teeth
- Trauma (such as a whiplash injury).
Suboccipital muscle pain can often feel like a tight band around the head. Tension in these muscles can cause nerve compression at the base of your skull. This could cause pain above and below the eyes.
Stress is the main cause of tension headaches.
How can you relieve tension headache pain?
These are some ways to manage tension headaches.
Have your eyes examined
You may need new glasses if you are straining to read, or if you keep tilting your head to use the off-the-shelf glasses, then you might need to get a new pair.
Design your workstation
A document stand or raising the computer monitor can reduce head tilting, which can cause strain to the occipital muscles.
Avoid slouching and practice good posture
Tai Chi, Pilates, and yoga are all options. All of these forms of exercise are excellent and can improve your posture. For exercises tailored to your needs, you might want to consult a chiropractor, movement therapist, or physical therapist.
Massage that concentrates on the neck and upper back
A 30-minute massage that focuses on the neck, upper back, and shoulders. This will help relieve headache pain and relax muscles.
Applying a hot pack to the base of the head
This should be done for between 15-20 minutes.
Place two tennis balls in a sock
Lay on your back on the ground. Your head should be compressed against the tennis balls. For a few moments, gently rock your head side to side and back again.
What is the sign of a serious health problem when a headache occurs?
Most headaches are not dangerous but can be painful. Headache pain may be a sign of a larger health problem. To find out if you have a brain tumor, or a headache that isn’t related to your regular health, consult your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I have pain at the base of my skull?
Tight muscles in your neck at the back can cause pain or headaches around the base of your skull. This could be due to tension, stress, fatigue, or tension. A herniated cervical disk or injury to the upper neck can cause pain in the back of your skull. The headaches that begin at the base can be cluster headaches or tension headaches.
Your head may hurt from persistent, dull pains if it is located at the base of the skull. Sharp jabbing pains can occur if there is a trapped nerve in the cervical spine. Pain that radiates down your spine can also be caused by headaches at the back of your head. You may also experience sharp pain that radiates to your temples or behind your eyes. You may feel tingling or shoulder pain in the back of your neck.
Most headaches and neck pain that you feel at the back of the head will disappear if you take proper rest or use home remedies. Heat or cold packs, a neck or shoulder massage, or essential oils can all help relieve stiffness that causes headaches.
How do you relieve pain at the base of your skull?
Use heat/ice therapy. Ice therapy can reduce inflammation and ease pain. As you lie down, place an ice pack underneath your skull. You may be able to get more relief by using heat therapy such as an electric heating pad.
What causes pain at back base of skull?
Occipital Neuralgia refers to a condition where the occipital nervous system, which runs through the scalp, is inflamed or injured. It can cause severe pain, such as throbbing, shock-like, or piercing in the upper neck, behind the ears, and the back of the head.
Do brain tumors cause pain in back of head?
Unexplained weight gain is one of the common side effects of brain cancer. A loss of vision, blurred or double vision is all possible. Increased pressure felt at the backside of the head.
Is a Certain Type of Headache a Sign of a Brain Tumor? https://www.healthline.com/health/brain-tumor-headaches-is-my-headache-a-sign-of-a-brain-tumor Occipital Neuralgia – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment https://www.aans.org/en/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Occipital-Neuralgia Pain at Base of Skull, Upper Neck? 3-Step Self-Relief Neck Headaches https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UATtg_fLyBs