HomeHealth articlesheadacheWhy Does Headache Occur at the Back of the Head?

Headache at the back of the head - Causes, and Management

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Headaches can range in severity and discomfort at the back of the head and can be caused by a variety of factors. Read the article below to learn more.

Written by

Dr. Shikha

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Arpit Varshney

Published At November 2, 2022
Reviewed AtJune 28, 2023

What Is a Headache?

A headache is defined as discomfort in the head or face, which can also involve pain in the upper region of the neck. The skin, bone, and structures in the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth are all pain-sensitive in the region of the face and head. Furthermore, the large arteries of the brain are extremely sensitive, and these are the main organs that lead to pain in vascular headaches like migraines. The teeth and the temporomandibular joint can also cause a headache. The brain is not sensitive to pain and does not cause headaches.

What Are the Types of Headaches?

There are several forms of headaches, such as :

  • Migraine: Migraines are characterized by nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness, light sensitivity (photophobia), and other visual symptoms. Migraines have several phases as well, and however, not everyone goes through each phase. The following are some of the stages of a migraine headache:

  • Prodromal Phase or Premonition Phase: Hours or days before the headache, a change in mood or behavior may develop.

  • Aura Phase: The headache may be preceded by a set of sensory, visual, or motor symptoms. Vision abnormalities, hallucinations, numbness, speech problems, and muscle weakness are all examples.

  • Headache Phase: Period of throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head during the actual headache. Depression, weariness, and sensitivity to motion and light are all prevalent.

  • Resolution Phase: During this stage, the pain subsides, but fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating may replace it. After an attack, some people feel revitalized, while others do not.

  • Cluster Headaches: Cluster headaches frequently come in waves, lasting weeks or months at a time. The following are the most prevalent cluster headache symptoms:

    • Severe headache on one side, generally behind one eye.

    • The impacted eye may appear red and watery, with a droopy lid and a small pupil.

    • Congestion or a runny nose.

    • Inflammation of the eyelids.

    • Inflammation of the forehead.

  • Tension Headaches: The most prevalent type of headache is the tension headache. Tension headaches are frequently caused by stress and tense muscles. A stress headache has the following symptoms:
    • The headache comes on gradually.

    • Both sides of the head frequently hurt.

    • Pain in the back of the neck or head is possible.

    • The pain is dull or has the sensation of a band around the head.

    • Tension headaches do not usually produce nausea, vomiting, or light sensitivity (photophobia).

    • The discomfort is mild to moderate but not unbearable.

  • Medication overuse headache (MOH): is induced by long-term and excessive use of headache medications. It is the most prevalent type of secondary headache. It may impact up to five percent of some populations, with women being more affected than men. The symptoms include:
    • Pain is oppressive and continuous.

    • Pain is generally at its worst when you first wake up.

In this article, tension headaches or headaches at the back of the head are discussed in detail.

What Is a Headache in the Back of the Head?

The most frequent type of headache is the tension headache. When the muscles in the scalp and neck tense, this happens. Pain radiates from the sides and rear of the head. It is usually a faint ache that does not throb. Headaches in the back of the head are caused by a variety of factors; they might be the result of a small injury, or they can be a symptom of other health issues. The type and location of pain are important factors in determining the etiology of headaches. Headaches that are severe or recurrent require immediate medical intervention.

A stress headache is not a symptom of anything else. Even so, it can be excruciating. Some people report it feels like their head is being squeezed by a vise.

There are two different kinds of tension headaches:

  • Chronic Tension Headache: Chronic headaches occur more than 15 times per month for at least three months. The pain is generally constantly present, albeit it varies during the day. When one experiences a chronic headache, one can feel a little nauseous.

  • Episodic Tension Headaches: Episodic or stress headaches are called so because they occur when someone is stressed, anxious, angry, hungry, depressed, or exhausted.

What Causes a Headache in the Back of the Head?

The exact etiology of tension headaches is unknown. Experts used to believe that tension headaches were caused by muscular spasms in the face, neck, and scalp, which might be caused by heightened emotions, tension, or stress. Muscle contraction, however, does not appear to be the cause. The most widely accepted explanation suggests that patients with tension headaches have heightened pain sensitivity. A heightened pain system can cause increased muscle tenderness, which is a common symptom of tension-type headaches. Tension-type headaches are most usually associated with stress. A single stressful incident or a buildup of stress frequently triggers episodic ones. Chronic stress can develop from daily tension. The following are possible tension headache triggers:

  • Bad posture.

  • Insufficient sleep.

  • Depression or emotional or mental stress.

  • Low iron levels can cause fatigue and hunger.

  • Anxiety.

  • Smoking, alcohol, or caffeine.

  • Dental or jaw-related concerns.

  • Sinusitis, cold, or flu.

  • Dehydration.

  • Strained eyes.

What Are the Symptoms of a Headache in the Back of the Head?

A tension headache or headache in the back of the head has the following signs and symptoms:

  • Headache that is dull and agonizing.

  • Tenderness in the scalp, neck, and shoulder muscles.

  • Pressure or tightness across the forehead region or on the sides and back of the head is usually experienced.

How to Treat a Headache in the Back of the Head?

Tension headaches are best treated as soon as they appear when the symptoms are still minor. The goal is to alleviate the discomfort and prevent future occurrences.

  • Lifestyle changes.

  • Reduce stress.

  • Exercise every day as it relieves tension and keeps one in shape. It also aids in stretching.

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Maintain a good posture. A solid stance might help one avoid tense muscles.

  • Drink multiple glasses of fresh water each day. Eating meals that are naturally high in water, such as fruits and vegetables, can help.

  • Eat balanced, regular meals.

  • Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided.

  • Limit the number of pain relievers you take. Use the least dose feasible. Take only one or two pain relievers at a time.

  • Medications.

Tension headaches are frequently treated with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Some of these medicines can help people with chronic headaches avoid them. However, if the patient takes them frequently, there is a risk of developing a condition known as medication overuse headache or rebound headache. Treatments available over-the-counter include Acetaminophen, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs).

If over-the-counter pain medicines do not work, the doctor might prescribe a stronger medication like Indomethacin, Ketoprofen, Ketorolac, and Naproxen.


Medical management of headache problems necessitates healthcare professional training, correct diagnosis, and recognition of the illnesses, successful treatment with cost-effective drugs, modest lifestyle changes, and patient education. Given the related impairment and societal costs, headache disorders are a public health concern. Because headache disorders are most bothersome during productive years, Loss in working hours and diminished productivity are enormous. One-third of all neurological consults are for headaches.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Remedies for a Headache Located at the Rear of the Head?

People can try various remedies to alleviate headaches at the back of the head. Start by ensuring proper hydration, maintaining good posture, and taking short breaks if people are involved in activities that strain the neck and head. Gentle neck stretches and massages can help release tension. Over-the-counter pain relievers might provide relief, but if the headache persists or worsens, consider seeking medical advice to rule out any underlying issues.


How Can People Alleviate Discomfort at the Back of the Skull's Base?

To ease discomfort at the back of the skull's base, a few strategies can be beneficial. Engage in mind relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation that help in alleviating the tension. Ensuring an ergonomic workspace and avoiding prolonged periods of poor posture can also reduce strain. If the discomfort persists or becomes severe, consulting a healthcare professional is advisable to identify any underlying causes and receive appropriate guidance.


Does Pain in the Back of the Head Indicate a Serious Condition?

Pain in the back of the head doesn't always indicate a serious condition, but it's important to pay attention to the context and accompanying symptoms. Common causes could include tension, stress, or minor muscle strain. When pain is severe, persistent, occurs with neurological symptoms, or worsens over time, it's advised to seek medical attention to rule out serious underlying issues, including neurological disorders or vascular problems.


Is Experiencing Pain at the Back of the Head a Common Occurrence?

Experiencing pain at the back of the head is relatively common and can often be attributed to factors like tension, stress, or poor posture. Sometimes, these issues are managed with self-care measures, including relaxation techniques, gentle stretches, and better ergonomics. If the pain is occasional and mild, it's usually not a cause for major concern. However, if it becomes frequent, severe, or disrupts daily life, seeking medical evaluation is advisable to ensure there are no underlying conditions contributing to the pain.


What's the Typical Duration of a Headache Occurring at the Back of the Head?

The duration of a headache occurring at the back of the head can vary. Generally, tension-type headaches might last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. If the headache persists for more than a day or becomes increasingly severe, it's better to consult a medical professional for a proper evaluation. Monitoring the frequency, intensity, and any associated symptoms can help determine if further medical attention is necessary.


When Should One Be Worried About Pain in the Back of the Head?

If people are concerned about pain in the back of the head, certain factors should be considered. Seek medical attention if the pain is unusually severe, sudden, or accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness, vision changes, or numbness. Additionally, it's a good idea to speak with a healthcare provider if the pain is persistent and doesn't go away with over-the-counter painkillers to make sure there aren't any underlying problems that need to be addressed.


Where Is the Location of a Stress-Induced Headache?

A stress-induced headache can typically be felt in different areas of the head, including the back. Stress headaches often result from muscle tension and can cause discomfort in the neck, temples, or forehead as well. Addressing the underlying stress through relaxation techniques, lifestyle adjustments, and stress management strategies can help alleviate these types of headaches. A healthcare practitioner should be consulted if the headaches are frequent or severe in order to receive an accurate diagnosis and recommendations.


Is It Usual to Feel Pain at the Back of the Head?

Feeling pain at the back of the head is not unusual and can occur for various reasons, including tension, muscle strain, or stress. Poor posture and prolonged screen time can contribute to this discomfort. Making ergonomic adjustments, practicing relaxation techniques, and incorporating regular breaks can often help alleviate this type of pain. However, if the pain is persistent, worsening, or accompanied by other symptoms concerning the condition, seeking medical advice is recommended to rule out any underlying conditions.


What Could Be the Reasons for Experiencing Daily Headaches?

Experiencing daily headaches could be due to several factors, including stress, dehydration, lack of sleep, or even certain dietary triggers. Identifying potential triggers through a headache diary can be helpful. However, if daily headaches persist for an extended period, it's essential to consult a healthcare professional. They can assess the symptoms, medical history, and lifestyle factors to determine the underlying cause and recommend appropriate management strategies.


How Long Do Tension Headaches Usually Persist?

Tension headaches typically last anywhere from a few hours to several days. They are often characterized by mild to moderate, steady, and pressure-like pain. If tension headaches are frequent, persistent, or significantly impacting daily life, it's advisable to consult a medical professional for proper evaluation and management. Identifying triggers, practicing stress-reduction techniques, and making lifestyle adjustments can often help manage the frequency and intensity of tension headaches.


Should a Headache at the Back of the Head Be a Cause for Concern?

A headache at the back of the head should be a cause for concern if it's accompanied by severe pain, sudden onset, neurological symptoms like numbness or weakness, or if it's a significant departure from the usual headache patterns. Additionally, if the pain worsens over time or interferes with daily activities, seeking medical attention is advisable. A healthcare provider can evaluate the symptoms, conduct necessary tests, and provide appropriate guidance for further investigation and management.


What's the Medical Term for the Pain Felt in the Posterior Part of the Head?

The medical term for pain in the posterior part of the head is "occipital headache" or "occipital neuralgia." This type of headache often originates from irritation or inflammation of the occipital nerves at the skull's base. If people experience persistent or severe occipital headaches, they should consult a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.


Is Feeling Pain at the Base of the Skull a Normal Phenomenon?

Feeling pain at the base of the skull is a relatively common phenomenon and can often be attributed to factors such as muscle tension, poor posture, or even stress. Even though it's not rare, severe or persistent discomfort near the base of the skull has to be examined by a doctor to rule out any underlying issues. Getting medical guidance can help patients identify the source of their pain and direct them toward efficient pain management techniques.


Which Types of Migraines Often Originate in the Back of the Head?

Certain types of migraines, known as "cervicogenic migraines," can originate in the back of the head. These migraines are often triggered by neck or upper spine issues, such as muscle tension or joint problems. They can cause pain that radiates to the back of the head and may be accompanied by neck discomfort. Consultation with a healthcare provider is advised if someone suspects they may be suffering from cervicogenic migraines in order to receive a proper diagnosis and specific treatment advice.


How Can I Differentiate Between a Migraine and a Regular Headache?

Differences between a migraine and a regular headache involve consideration of various factors. Migraines typically involve moderate to severe throbbing pain, often on one side of the head, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and aura (visual disturbances). Regular headaches are often milder and may be triggered by tension, dehydration, or other factors. Consulting a healthcare professional can help people get a more precise diagnosis and point them in the direction of the best management techniques if they are unsure of their symptoms.
Dr. Arpit Varshney
Dr. Arpit Varshney

General Medicine


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