Some headache symptoms occur specifically in the back of the head. Possible causes include tension, migraine, and medication overuse.
This article looks at eight of the most common causes of pain in the back of the head:
- tension-type headaches
- medication overuse headaches
- occipital neuralgia
- exercise-induced headaches
We also take a look at their symptoms, possible treatments, and prevention methods.
Tension or tension-type headaches (TTH) usually cause tightness or pressure around the forehead, and may also cause discomfort in the neck, shoulders, or scalp. These headaches can last for up to 7 days, but they can also be brief, lasting for as little as 30 minutes.
The symptoms of a tension-type headache are:
- a feeling of tightening around the head, which can include the back of the head and may also affect the face or neck
- pain that is mild to moderate but occasionally severe
- the headache is not made worse by exercise
- no nausea or vomiting
Learn more about the causes and treatment of tension headaches.
Migraine headaches are a
In adulthood, they can occur several times a week, especially in females between the ages of 35 and 45 years.
Common symptoms of migraine include:
- throbbing intense pain on one side of the head
- nausea and vomiting
- visual disturbance
- heightened sensitivity to light, noise, and smell
- muscles tenderness and sensitive skin
- last from a few hours to several days
- physical activity makes them worse
An “aura” might precede a migraine headache, in which the person experiences flashing lights or other visual disturbances.
Learn more about the triggers and treatment of migraine.
A cervicogenic headache
The symptoms of a cervicogenic headache include:
- pain around the eyes and vision problems
- pain in the neck, shoulders, or arms on one side
- pain in the head when making certain movements
- light or noise sensitivity
Learn more about the causes and treatment of cervicogenic headaches.
Occipital neuralgia is a distinctive and less common type of headache that affects the back of the head.
It may relate to damage or irritation of the occipital nerves, which run up the back of the neck to the base of the scalp.
Underlying diseases, neck tension, or other unknown factors might cause the damage or irritation.
The pain in occipital neuralgia can be severe. Other symptoms include:
- continuous throbbing and burning ache
- intermittent shocking or shooting pains
- pain is often on one side of the head and can be triggered by moving the neck
- tenderness in the scalp
- sensitivity to light
Due to the similarity of symptoms, a person or medical professional
Learn more about the causes and treatment of occipital neuralgia
Exercise-induced headaches occur as a result of strenuous physical activity. They start suddenly during or immediately after exercise, rapidly becoming severe.
A wide range of exercises might trigger this pain, from weightlifting or running to sexual intercourse and straining on the toilet.
Symptoms include pulsating pain on both sides of the head, which can last from 5 minutes to 2 days. These headaches are usually isolated events and may also produce migraine-like symptoms.
Learn more about how exercise can cause a headache.
Cluster headache attacks that happen over a period of time are known as a cluster period and these can last for days, weeks, and even months.
Symptoms also include:
- redness and swelling around the painful eye,
- nasal congestion
- a blocked nose
- pale skin
- facial sweating
- drooping eyelids
- face, a smaller
Learn more about the causes and treatment of cluster headaches.
Medication-overuse headaches (MOH) may develop if a person uses too much pain relief medication. MOH headaches are also known as rebound headaches.
Occasional use of pain relief does not cause any problems. However, when a person takes pain relief medication more than
The main symptoms include:
- persistent, almost daily headaches
- worse pain when waking
- a headache after stopping pain relief
Other problems associated with MOH are:
- lack of energy
- physical weakness
- difficulty concentrating
Low-pressure headache, also called positional headache, is a pain in the back of the head caused by intracranial hypotension, which is when the cerebrospinal fluid pressure in the brain reduces to less than
This headache usually feels worse when sitting or standing, and better when lying down. Bending, coughing, sneezing, lifting, and straining can also trigger it.
Some people may wake up with mild headaches that worsen as the day progresses. The positional nature of these headaches could go away eventually or become weaker with time.
Positional headaches typically affect the back of the head, but may also affect the front area, only one side of it, and even the entire head. The intensity of these headaches is often described as severe, pressure-like, throbbing, pounding, stabbing, and aching.
Learn more about the cause and treatment of positional headaches.
Any time a person experiences symptoms that are new, different, or unusual, it’s worth seeing a doctor.
But if your headache is severe or starts suddenly, it could indicate a life-threatening condition like meningitis or a stroke.
Other symptoms indicating you should seek emergency medical help include:
- vision loss or double vision
How do you get rid of a headache in the back of the head?
The treatment for a headache in the back of the head depends on the cause. It can involve both medications and lifestyle changes.
What does a dehydration headache feel like?
A dehydration headache can range from mild to intense, causing pain in the front, back, side, or throughout the head. When a person with this type of headache moves their head, they may feel even more discomfort.
Other dehydration symptoms associated with dehydration headaches include extreme thirst, decreased urination, and dark-colored urine.
Learn more about dehydration headaches.
Headaches are common. They can affect a person’s quality of life and their ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Many headaches go away without treatment, but some have more serious causes. Anyone who is worried about pain in the back of their head should seek medical advice. If there is an underlying cause that needs addressing, it is better to do so as soon as possible.