Headache in the back of the Head

Headaches that occur at the back of head are often associated with the term "Occipital", which means "relating to the occipital bone or the occiput (back of the head or the skull)". The occipital bone is the curved, saucer-shaped bone forming the lower part of the skull.

Headache can come with simple causes like eyestrain and tension, to serious causes such as blood clots and inflammation. If the headache does not go by itself, or is recurring, it needs to be checked with a doctor.

Occipital Neuralgia

This is a neurological condition where occipital nerves get inflamed or injured. Occipital nerves run from the top of the spinal cord (at the base of the neck) up through the scalp. Occipital neuralgia is often confused with migraine or other headaches because of similar symptoms. Occipital neuralgia requires an acute diagnosis, and its treatment differs from the conventional treatment of other types of headaches. This is not a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia

Intense pain at the back of head and neck, somewhat sharp, jabbing, or like electric shock. Additional symptoms include:
• Throbbing, burning or aching pain that onsets at the base of the head and extends to the scalp
• Pain behind the eye
• Pain on one or both sides of the head
• Pain when moving the neck
• Tender scalp
• Sensitivity to light

Causes of Occipital Neuralgia

It results from irritation or compression of the optical nerves. This can happen due to injury, inflammation or entrapment of the nerves. Conditions attributed with occipital neuralgia include tumors of the neck, osteoarthritis, neck tension and/or tight neck muscles, cervical disc disease, infection and blood vessel inflammation.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Occipital Neuralgia:

Occipital neuralgia is diagnosed with physical exam, MRI tests and blood tests. Anesthetic nerve shock is given to relive the pain, and if it works, occipital neuralgia is the likely cause.
Treatment depends on the cause of inflammation or irritation of the occipital nerves. Treatment includes application of heat to the neck, massage anti-inflammatory drugs. If these fail, steroid injections, antidepressant medication are given, or surgery may be needed. Most people get relief with medication and rest.

Other Headaches at the back of head

a) Subarachnoid haemorrhage: occurs as thunderclap headache, as if being kicked in the head.
b) Meningism (inability to bend the neck forward due to stiffness), presence of headache with fever may be caused by meningitis
c) Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain, especially due to viruses)
d) Brain tumors
e) Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH, seen more in younger overweight women): Increased pressure around the brain (intracranial pressure) in the absence of a tumor or other diseases.
f) Cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (blood clot)

Typical diagnosis methods include MRI and CT scan. Treatment of any of the above conditions depends upon their diagnoses. It includes complete rest or certain exercises, use of cervical collars, medication, and/or surgery.


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