Back of Head Hurts

From time to time, you may experience a pain in the back of your head. By this could be caused by a basic trauma or headache, it could also be an indication of a more serious problem. It is important to figure out the cause of your head pain so that you can figure out the correct course of treatment.

Why Does the Back of My Head Hurt?

There are a variety of different causes that could make the back of your head hurt. Often, it is an entirely treatable condition that you can manage with over-the-counter medication or home remedies. If your symptoms occur for an extended period of time, it is important to go to your doctor. A severe headache could be a sign of a serious condition like meningitis or a tumor, so your doctor will want to do blood tests or x-rays to figure out the exact case. If your head pain is from a tumor, meningitis or a stroke, you will not be able to treat it at home—you will need to get professional medical care right away.

Ice-Pick Headache

This headache received its nickname because it causes intense, stabbing pain for a few seconds at a time. While the pain can take place at any point on your head, it can also be focused just on the back of your head.

Occipital Neuralgia

This causes a pain that is similar to a cervicogenic headache. It occurs on the back of your head and may be on just one side. It causes a sharp pain that can radiate outward toward your eyes or the top of your head.

Cervicogenic Headache

This type of headache is one of the most common causes of pain on the back of your head. It may radiate around the side of your head or onto your forehead, but most of the pain will be localized on just one side toward the back. This type of headache can occur due to minor injuries, your posture or neck injuries. It is also more common as you grow older and is fairly common among older people.

Cluster Headache

This type of migraine can take place at any spot on your head. About 25 percent of migraine sufferers have this type of migraine.


Most migraines are not located in the back of the head, but about 40 percent of migraine sufferers experience at least some of the pain in the back of their head. These individuals may experience neck pain as well during their migraine.

An Ice Cream Headache

If you just ate ice cream, you can relax: your head pain is probably nothing major. Ice cream or frozen drinks can cause sudden, intense pain around your temples. While it is mostly localized around the front of your temples, some people also experience pain near the back of their head.

Tension Headache

Tension headaches may cause pain in the back of your head, and it can cause muscle tenderness and pain where your neck meets your head.

Herpes Zoster Virus

The herpes zoster virus can end up causing head pain and a burning sensation in your neck. This type of pain is typically localized on one side of your head. Often, the pain will start before a rash develops on the same spot.


Sinus pain can be unbelievably difficult to bear at times. It generally causes pain in your forehead and sinus cavities. Sometimes, sinusitis can also cause pain at the back of your head if your sinuses are especially inflamed.

What Are Some of the Serious Conditions That Can Cause the Back of Your Head to Hurt?

At times, a more serious cause may be causing your head to hurt. The following are some of the conditions that can cause head pain. Since some of these conditions can be extremely dangerous, it is important to seek out professional medical care immediately if you suspect that you could have any of them.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

This medical condition involves bleeding in and around the brain. If you have this condition, you will most likely have the worst headache you have ever head. You may may experience vomiting, confusion, dizziness and nausea.

Temporal Arteritis

Several arteries bring blood, oxygen and nutrients to your brain. If you have temporal arteritis, these arteries have become inflamed. It is difficult to diagnose this condition, but it can be treated with steroids.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

If you have an infection, your lymph nodes may become infected and swollen. An ear, nose, scalp, throat or nose infection can all cause lymph nodes in the back of your neck to become swollen. Likewise, childhood cases of rubella can lead to swollen lymph nodes and extreme pain in this area. Treat the underlying infection and the swollen lymph nodes should gradually go away.

Vertebral Artery Dissection

If this condition occurs, you will experience an intense, sudden pain at the back of your head. The onset will be extremely fast, and you will be in almost unbearable pain.

Infectious Meningitis

Meningitis can cause pain because of damaged nerves that are harmed by the infection. You may develop a high fever, a stiff neck and head or neck pain. You need to seek medical treatment right away because infectious meningitis can be deadly.

Compressed Nerve

If one of the nerves in your neck is compressed or damaged, it can cause pain.

Other Causes


When you have a severe cough, it can end up triggering a headache. This is more likely to happen if your family members get a headache when they cough because there seems to be a genetic predisposition to this kind of head pain.

Low Pressure

Some individuals can experience a low pressure headache that causes slight head pain in the back of the head. If you do some type of activity, it can make the headache worse. You may also experience ringing in your ears or problems hearing.

High Altitude

If you suddenly go from a low to a high altitude too quickly, you can develop altitude sickness. One of the common signs of this problem is pain in the back of your head or a generalized headache. This is a less common cause of back of head pain because most people are not mountain climbers or headed to a high altitude locale.

Neck Muscle Injuries

One of the most frequent causes of back of head pain is a neck muscle injury. If the neck muscles are injured, you will experience pain that starts in your neck or shoulders and gradually radiates toward the back of your head.

Cardiac Cephalgia

A cardiac problem or heart attack can cause pain in the back of your head. This is most likely due to the closing of certain cardiac arteries. If you even think that you could be experiencing a heart attack, it is important to go to your doctor at once.

Life-Threatening Causes

All of these conditions require immediate medical care. If you even think that they are a possible cause for your head pain, you should seek medical treatment right away.

Dengue Fever

Dengue fever can cause a high fever and severe headaches. Twenty percent of sufferers will experience a headache in the back of their head.

Brain Tumor

One out of four people who have a brain tumor will experience pain in the back of their head. Unfortunately, this only happens in some cases, so it is not always easy to diagnose this condition without further testing.

Parkinson’s Disease

While Parkinson’s Disease is not immediately a cause for concern, you will want to go to the doctor to find out ways to manage your illness. One out of three people with Parkinson’s disease complain about having pain in their neck or the back of the head. While this is not a common reason behind head pain, it is a possibility.


Often diagnosed as Grave’s disease, this condition can cause pain at the back of the head. A thyroidectomy and medication are the most common treatment options if you are diagnosed with this illness.

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