A headache at the base of your neck is a tension type of headache and it’s one of the most common headaches that people suffer from. It can cause quite a lot of pain and discomfort so if you deal with this problem, learn about the causes and possible methods of treatment.
What Is a Headache
Before you start struggling with a headache at the base of your neck, first try to understand what a headache really is.
A headache is a feeling of pain or discomfort in your head or face area. They may occur in different parts of our head and face with pain being very mild or really severe. The frequency of headaches also varies depending on the person.
Various parts of our head can be blameful for our headache. A common culprit can be found in a network of nerves, which spreads over the scalp. Some nerves in your face, mouth, or even throat as well as the muscles in our head, neck, or shoulders may cause a headache too. Blood vessels which are located along the surface and at the base of the brain can be responsible for headaches too.
There are three main types of headaches, which are migraine, cluster headaches and tension headaches. If you suffer from a migraine, apart from pain in your head, you probably experience other unpleasant symptoms too, such as sensitivity to light or vomiting.
Cluster headaches often last for weeks or even months. Pain in this type of headache is usually extreme and it occurs on one side of your head, often behind one eye, which is additionally reddish or watery. Your nose might be congested too.
Tension headaches are the most frequent types of headaches. They occur mainly at the back of your neck and they are connected with stress and stiffness of our muscles.
Moreover, all types of headaches are also systematized as a primary or a secondary one. If you suffer from a primary headache, it means that it is the predominant problem.
In case of a secondary headache, however, it is only a symptom of an underlying medical disorder. For example, your headache may be due to your eye problems.
What Are the Causes of a Headache at the Base of the Neck
A headache at the base of your neck is a tension type of headache, which in medical terms is known as occipital neuralgia. It appears when your occipital nerves are irritated by something or there is pressure on them.
It’s often difficult to identify one particular reason that leads to occipital neuralgia, but among some common causes there are injuries at the back of the neck, osteoarthritis, diseases of cervical disc, stiff neck muscles or neck tension. Tumors in the neck are the most serious sources of pain at the back of the neck, but they happen rarely.
What’s more, some infections or conditions such as diabetes or gout may lead to occipital neuralgia too. Another reason is the inflammation of blood vessels.
A strained muscle is quite a common reason for pain at the back of the neck. It often happens as a consequence of a sports injury or a car accident, when our muscles were not ready for a sudden or quick movement.
In case you tear or rupture your muscle, apart from pain you can also experience swelling or inflammation.
However, one of the most probable reasons for headache at the base of the neck is bad body posture. The majority of us lead sedentary lifestyle, which means that we are physically inactive for most of the day. What’s worse, even when we sit, we don’t pay attention to our posture. We tend to lean our head forward and spend long hours in front of the computer or watching TV.
When our posture is poor we put too much pressure on certain ligaments, joints, and muscles which are supposed to hold our head up. After some time, our muscles get weak or still, and they aren’t flexible anymore. As a consequence, we feel pain at the base of our neck.
Tension headaches might also be the consequence of some changes that occur in the level of serotonin and endorphins, which are brain chemicals that boost pain pathways and take part in the brain’s ability to prevent pain.
If a person have osteoarthritis diagnosed, it means that his or her spinal structure has been worn and torn. So called osteophytes or bone spurs develop, which are bony outgrowths that may put tension on soft tissues, for example, on our nerves. It results in local or spreading pain at the back of the neck.
A disc herniation is another common condition that affects the cervical spine. It occurs when too much stress or motion is put on it and the disc is pushed outside, which results in irritation and sensitivity of the nerves. Of course, it might be quite painful.