Headaches can be extremely annoying and can appear in any part of the head. Headache can be due to numerous causes. Sometimes the pain in the head is only on the back of the head.
Causes of Pain in the Back of the Head
Pain in the back of the head can be due to a number of causes. It can also lead to pain in the other location and can be triggered by certain events.
Tension headache mostly causes pain in the forehead but is also the most common cause of pain in the back of the head. It can last for as long as 10 days or for a brief period of time i.e. 30 minutes.
The triggers for tension headache include:(1)
- Missing meals
- Sinus pain
- Lack of sleep
- Not drinking enough water
- Poor posture
The symptoms of tension headaches include:
- Sensation of tightness in the back and front of the head
- Mild to moderate pain and occasionally a severe pain
- A headache that worsens with exercise
- No nausea or vomiting
For infrequent tension headaches, a pain killer can be enough. But, if the headaches are frequent lifestyle modification may help reduce the frequency and length. The other treatment options include:
Migraine is a recurring headache that starts during childhood and continues and increases in frequency and severity with age. They can occur several times a week and are known to occur more frequently in females of 35-45 years of age.
The Common Symptoms of Migraine Include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Visual disturbance
- Muscle tenderness and skin sensitivity
- Sensitivity to light, noise, and smell
- Excessive throbbing pain in one side of the head
- Pain worsening on physical activity
The Common Triggers of Migraine Include:
Medication Overuse or Rebound Headaches
Medication overuse headaches can occur if a person uses too much medication to treat the headache. It is also known as a rebound headache.
Taking medication occasionally does not cause any harm. If a person takes medication more than two or more days a week over an extended period of time, it can lead to medication overuse or rebound headache.
The main symptoms of rebound headache include:
- Worsening pain on walking
- Persistent headache
- A headache after stopping pain relief
Other problems associated with rebound headache are:
- Lack of energy
- Physical weakness
- Difficulty in concentration
Treatment of rebound headache is to stop taking pain medication entirely. The headache may worsen at first and then may resolve. In severe cases, a doctor should be consulted.(2) Certain medications may need a gradual reduction in the dosage.
Occipital neuralgia is a common type of headache that begins at the nape of the neck and spreads up to the back of the head and to behind the ears.
This headache may be related to damage or irritation to the occipital nerve, which is caused by an underlying disease, neck tension, and other factors. The cause of occipital neuralgia include:
- Damage to the spine or disc
- Inflammation of blood vessels
- Damaged nerves due to diabetes
The pain due to occipital neuralgia can be severe and lead to symptoms, which include:
- Continuous throbbing and burning ache
- Intermittent shocking and shooting pain
- Pain in one side of the head
- Tenderness of the scalp
- Light sensitivity
Occipital neuralgia pain can be alleviated with the help of heat packs, massage, physical therapy, resting, and taking anti-inflammatory medications. In severe cases, oral muscle relaxants, nerve block medications, anesthetics, or steroid injections may be needed.
Exercise-induced headaches occur due to strenuous physical activities. This headache may start suddenly, immediately after exercise and rapidly get severe. There are various physical activities that may trigger this pain, which include running, walking, sexual intercourse, or even straining on the toilet.
The symptoms include pulsating headache on both sides of the head lasting from 5 minutes to 2 days.
The treatment of these headaches includes pain relief medications.
Most of the time the headache on the back of the head resolve on their own, but in some cases may go severe. One should seek medical advice to know about the underlying cause that needs to be addressed.