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Back of the headache is pain that usually originates in the neck area and is then localized primarily in the back area of the head. These can have many causes and both represent an independent disease and occur in the course of other diseases. Likewise, e.g. Poisons, certain foods, or an injury may be responsible for the discomfort. If you suffer from pain in the back of your head again and again, you should definitely see a doctor to determine the trigger that is responsible.
Almost everyone has been plagued with a headache. Even in children, this type of pain is becoming more common. Around two hundred different types of headache are known. These are divided into primary and secondary pain. Primary means that these themselves represent the disease or occur independently without a recognizable cause. Secondary headaches are the result of other illnesses.
One of many headache types
Headaches at the back of the head can occur suddenly or slowly. The character of the pain is dull, stinging, pulsating, undulating, easily to hardly bearable. They can be one-sided, both-sided limited to the back of the head or even radiating and have their origin in the neck.
Occipital headaches, which only occur occasionally, are usually eliminated by taking a headache tablet. However, if the pain increases, it is massive and / or if it occurs suddenly and violently, a doctor should be consulted. Especially when symptoms such as speech disorders, nausea or dizziness are added.
Causes of back pain
There are various causes for the complaints. For example, a blow to the back of the head or a fall, possibly together with a concussion, may trigger the pain. Whiplash in connection with a car accident can also be the reason.
Problems with the cervical spine, which are usually associated with muscular neck tension, can also be mentioned as a trigger for pain in the area of the back of the head. Furthermore, an incorrect or stereotypical posture, lack of exercise or the wrong sleeping position can be responsible for the symptoms. During pregnancy, with depressive moods and with massive fears, occipital pains can be observed.
Cause occipital neuralgia
The symptoms can be triggered by occipital neuralgia (also called occipital syndrome). Because of a cervical spine syndrome or spondylosis, there is a root irritation symptomatology of the second and / or third cervical vertebra, which is accompanied by pain in the area of the back of the head.
These pains are mostly one-sided, are described as sharp, shooting and stabbing, are usually aggravated by movement and may radiate towards the eye. They only last a few minutes, but can also last for several days. Touch sensitivity of the scalp is sometimes also part of the symptoms.
Upper cervical spine syndrome as the cause of the symptoms
Cervicocephalgia may be the cause of the discomfort. This is pain that emanates from the cervical spine and radiates into the back of the head. Some of these can even be felt up to the forehead and jaw. The pain disorder, also known as the upper cervical spine syndrome, can also be associated with dizziness, vision, hearing and swallowing disorders. Headaches starting from the neck are mostly caused by muscle tension, bad posture and / or signs of wear and tear or degenerative changes.
Headache from food and medication
Alcohol and nicotine are also possible causes of headaches in the back of the head. The same applies to certain foods such as chocolate, nuts and smoked cheese. A drug-induced pain (MIKS) is equally conceivable. This occurs when excessive pain medication has been taken due to primary headaches such as cluster headaches or migraines.
Occasional headaches can occur as a side effect with some medications. This is possible, for example, when taking calcium channel blockers (antihypertensive agents). The widespread "China Restaurant Syndrome", in which those affected are hypersensitive to the taste enhancer glutamate, can trigger the symptoms.
Tension headaches are among the most common types of pain. These usually start at the neck and then spread over the back of the head, possibly all over the head. This produces moderate, dull, oppressive pain that can last from half an hour to a week.
The causes are usually increased tension, triggered by stress or incorrect posture (for example, with long computer work or stereotypical posture). In contrast to migraines, the symptoms are not accompanied by aura symptoms such as dizziness, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting.
Of course, occipital headaches cannot be avoided. Nevertheless, there are some preventive measures to protect yourself against it. In the first place you see relaxation. Because tension creates pressure and this can lead to pain - even in the area of the back of the head. Often there is cramped muscles in the area of the cervical spine. These tensions create compressions of the nerve endings, which causes the symptoms.
Regular relaxation exercises and periods of rest should accompany everyday life to prevent this. A healthy level of exercise is also important, especially in the fresh air. These include walks, jogging, walking or cycling. Sufficient sleep is a prerequisite for coping with the day relatively relaxed. In the evening, after work is done, a hot bath ensures calm and relaxed muscles. Regular saunas also reduce stress and relax not only the muscles, but the whole person.
Since the pain in the back of the head can be triggered by toxic substances such as alcohol or cigarettes, these should be reduced as much as possible or avoided altogether.
When to the doctor?
If the pain occurs suddenly, very massively and / or if additional symptoms such as visual disturbances, dizziness, vomiting or a stiff neck are observed, a doctor should be consulted immediately. In the worst case, the symptoms can indicate a stroke or meningitis. Headaches that recur frequently or do not go away for a long time should generally be clarified by a doctor.
In the treatment, the treatment of the underlying disease, if any, comes first. In the case of cervical spine syndrome, for example, physiotherapy in the form of massages, manual therapy and warmth is usually used.
Relaxation is one of the most important measures for treatment. Since the back of the headache is usually associated with muscular tension in the neck muscles, an attempt should be made to loosen it. This is done through heat therapy, in which e.g. Heat cushions, hot baths or special heat plasters are used.
If the muscles are very hard, a massage can help. If the measures remain ineffective, muscle relaxants are used to try to "soften" the muscles and thereby relieve the back of the headache. This procedure must be carried out by an orthopedic surgeon because the medication is prescription-only and should not be used on your own.
Relaxation from "inside out" is often part of the therapy for the back of the headache. This is where stress relief procedures such as yoga, autogenic training, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson help. Since neck pain that radiates into the back of the head sometimes results from muscles that are too weak, training should be carried out slowly and especially under professional guidance.
Pain relievers also help, of course. However, these are not too common and should be taken especially carefully. In medicine, it is recommended to use pain medication for a short period of three days in order not to cause any posture. Because this only increases the complaints. It is important to maintain or restore mobility. The intake of painkillers should be discussed with the doctor, since the medication can lead to severe side effects with prolonged use.
A number of naturopathic treatments are possible for back pain. In general, the cause is first researched and then the underlying disease is treated. In general, the psyche is included in alternative medicine. "Are those affected quite stressed?", "Are there psychological stresses that lead to tension, especially in the neck area?" These are questions that a naturopathic therapist asks in any case.
Against the complaints, forms of therapy such as acupuncture, reflexology, cupping, injections and spine therapy according to Dorn and Breuss (Dorn therapy) are used. Adequate hydration is important for all types of headache. It is therefore advisable to drink two to three large glasses of still water at the first sign of symptoms.
If the sufferers suffer from a constantly tense neck muscles that do not want to become really soft, the diet should be reconsidered. Too much acidic food can lead to chronic tension. A base-heavy diet helps to counteract the acidification of the organism. Potatoes, cauliflower, spinach, celery and bananas are very suitable here.
Other basic foods are e.g. Cucumbers, green beans, radish, tangerines, raisins and dried figs.
Initially, the food can be combined with suitable base preparations if necessary. Taking healing earth provides additional support.
If the headache is not yet pronounced, rest in combination with warmth is recommended. The pharmacy has heat cushions on hand which, when applied to the neck, provide relief. Those affected should try to be more relaxed and balanced overall. A number of medicinal plants such as hops, St. John's wort, valerian and passion flower offer natural help.
Proven home remedies for headaches are, for example, infusions with yarrow, rosemary or cowslips. These are easy to use, have a beneficial and pain-relieving effect.Recipe for key flower tea:
- Pour about 200 ml of boiling water over a teaspoon of cowslip flowers
- Let the infusion brew for 10 minutes
- Strain the flowers
- Drink three cups of the tea in small sips daily
Number 7 (Magnesium phosphoricum) is used primarily in the Schüssler salt therapy. This can help relax not only the muscles, but the whole person. Anthroposophic medicine offers suitable means for oral ingestion and injection. Patients are also encouraged to always plan for breaks in their everyday lives, to exercise regularly in the fresh air and to learn relaxation techniques. (sw, nr)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Susanne Waschke, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Sanofi-Aventis Deutschland GmbH: www.kopfache.de (access: August 30, 2019), headache on the back of the head? That can be behind it
- Jürgen Dahmer: Anamnesis and Findings The symptom-oriented patient examination as the basis for clinical diagnosis, Thieme, 2006
- Hans Tilscher; Peter Wessely; Manfred Eder: Headache: On the diagnosis and therapy of forms of pain other than migraines, Springer, 2013
- Hans-Christoph Diener: Headache Management in Practice: 94 Tables, Thieme, 2006
- A. Frese; M. Schilgen; I.-W. Husstedt; S. Evers: "Pathophysiology and Clinic of Cervicogenic Headache", in: The Pain, Volume 17 Issue 2, 2003, Springer Link
- K. Pfaffenrath; A. Wermuth; W. Pöllmann: "The tension headache", in: advances in neurology psychiatry, Volume 56 Issue 12, 1988, Thieme Connect