Why the back of the head hurts and what to do about it


Pain in the head can be due to different causes such as brain diseases or banal fatigue. If proper examinations are not done, it may be difficult to determine the root cause of the pain in the back of the head. It may be due to vascular spasm, high blood pressure, spinal diseases, swelling, trauma or simply fatigue and overworking of the neck muscles.

man with headache pain at back of head rubbing neck

Temporary causes of headache


Pain in the back of the head is usually not because of any underlying disease but mainly due to overexertion. This is because of overworking of the muscles and an increase in intracranial pressure. Pain occurs as a result of high metal stress, anxiety or even depression. The patient often feels nauseous and dizzy.

A negative state of mind not only affects the vessels of the brain but it also makes someone to take uncomfortable postures such as putting your back down, lowering the shoulders to press the neck to the chest. All these cause muscle overexertion, which will increase pain in the back of the head. In the case of a sick spine, it will further strain the nerves and this in turn increases the discomfort.

man having chiropractor adjust his head and neck

Such a type of headache can be dealt with in various ways. If you are overworked or you have been in an uncomfortable position for long periods, light charging, taking a warm bath and a head massage may help. If the pain is severe, you can pre-take analgesics. In serous cases such as depression or anxiety disorder, it is ideal that you visit the doctor so that he may recommend the right treatment that will ease the symptoms.

Why does the back of the head hurt in spinal diseases?

There are two main reasons: Firstly, the pain can simply spread from the sore back and it may be experienced as a result of tight nerve endings. Secondly, back diseases often come together, either due to curvature or osteochondrosis which brings about neuralgia that later develops a hernia.

  • Osteochondrosis is a common cause of pain in the back of the head and it destroys discs of the cervical vertebrae. Pain is experienced on the neck, temples and back of the head. The patient may also have tinnitus, loss of coordination and nausea.
  • Neuralgia of the occipil nerve manifests itself as a result of other diseases of the spine or it may occur after a prolonged hypothermia and drafting. It causes excruciating pain when moving the head and neck. At rest, the pain is not as intense and there are no other unpleasant sensations.
  • Cervical spondylosis which is an increase in bone volumes. It compresses blood vessels and impairs mobility of the neck. For this reason, the patient begins to experience blunt pain in the back of the head which increases after performing activities that require effort.

If you experience any signs and symptoms of these diseases, then consult a neurologist. He will perform a visual examination to picture the disease or you may also show the doctor a pre-done X-ray or MRI of the cervical vertebrae. This examination will assist in visualizing the spine and the surrounding tissues which will make it easier to make the right diagnosis and prescribe the correct treatment.

Brain and vascular diseases

If diseases of the back are ruled out, the cause of the pain may originate from the heart, blood vessels and brain. Unfortunately, most diseases of the nervous and circulatory system are common and they are often accompanied by pain and dizziness. Vascular disease that are common include:

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure – It causes headache, double vision and dizziness. You may also experience unpleasant sensations throughout the body especially when the pressure rises abruptly.
  • Vascular spasms – It causes a throbbing pain in the back of the head that may extend to the temporal and occipious part. The pain increases at any form of movement.
  • Intracranial hypertension – This is an increase in pressure inside the cranial box. It not only causes a severe crushing pain but also weakness, nausea, dizziness, hallucinations and convulsions.
  • Stroke – This is caused by blockage or rupture of the vessels of the brain. It results to an attack of acute pain, the patient can be partially paralyzed, unable to distinguish the surrounding environment and he may also have slurred talking. This is a dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention so as to save lives!

The cause of the brain pain may be:

  • Concussion – This may be due to an injury or fall. It causes hematoma and increased pressure which will bring about pain, nausea and loss of coordination.
  • Tumours – They can be both benign and malignant and they cause blunt constant pain at the point of formation. While they grow, they exert pressure on the structures f the brain, causing their destruction. Intracranial pressure will be increased and movement of blood may be disturbed.

If you notice the symptoms of any of these diseases, it is recommended that you visit a qualified neurologist or a neurosurgeon. Depending on the symptoms you experience, you may be required to undergo CT scans and MRI scans of the brain, its individual structures and a vascular angiography. The doctor may also measure your pressure and the ophthalmologist may also check the eye floor and if their is suspicion of a tumour, blood tests will be done to check for antibodies.

Other causes of pain

Pain in the back of the head may not be as a result of a condition related to the nervous or circulatory system. The pain may be due to:

  • ENT-diseases: Such as sore throats, pharyngitis, nasopharyngeal inflammation and auditory passages.
  • Teeth disease: Such as deep tooth decay, improper growth of wisdom teeth, periodontitis.
  • Eye diseases: Such as cataracts, scleritis, conjunctivitis and many others.

If you realise that the pain in the back of the head is not related to conditions of the brain, spine and blood vessels, visit an otolaryngologist, dentist or ophthalmologist. If these doctors do not diagnose any problem then it is essential that you review your regime of the day, regularly excercise and monitor your posture. There are high chances that the pain may be as a result of muscle fatigue and overworking. However, if you regularly experience headache at the back of the head, it is better to still consult a doctor for medical examinations so as to avoid pathologies.

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Cornelius Arthur
I am an English language and literature teacher. I have worked in many cities of the world. I am currently producing content at upwork as a freelance. I find and produce the right content by doing good research.


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