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Health Neurology

Causes and Treatment of Pain at base of Skull

pain at base of skull

Pain at the base of skull, top of neck is caused due to several reasons and it is not easy to identify the exact cause of pain. The parts of located between upper cervical spine and base of a skull contain a lot of nerve fiber in the form of a dense network, small muscles and joints. The pain at base of skull left side or pain at base of skull right side is generated by any of these nerves, muscles or joints. Whatever is the root cause, the pain is sharp and stabbing. In this article we will study the causes and treatment of pain at base of skull.


What Pain at Base of Skull?

Pain at base of skull is caused by nerve fibers, joints or muscles at the base of skull and upper cervical spine. The exact cause in most of the cases is unknown but the symptoms of this pain are typical, as the pain is generally intense, sharp and throbbing.

Causes of Pain at Base of Skull:

To find out the exact cause of pain at base of skull and jaw, around neck, you need to consult a neurologist, he will assess the medical history as well as symptoms to make diagnosis of the exact cause. The common causes of pain at base of skull are mentioned below:

  1. Tension Headaches:

A mild to moderate pain at the base of skull behind eyes is caused mainly due to tension, stress and anxiety. There is a characteristic band like pattern of tension headaches, this pressure or band travels to the base of neck under acute conditions. The symptoms are pain in base of skull and nausea.

Tension Headaches

  1. Occipital neuralgia:

The inflammation of occipital nerves is medically known as occipital neuralgia. In most of the cases, the pain is misinterpreted as migraine. The pain felt due to occipital neuralgia is like a jabbing electrical shock and throbbing at the base of skull causing headache. Pain behind eye, tenderness of scalp, pain at both sides of head, pain in neck movements, light sensitivity are the symptoms of occipital neuralgia.

  1. Cervical strains and injuries:

Have you ever experienced pain in base of skull when touched? You are likely to experience sharp pain at the base of skull if you get a neck injury. In this condition, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments of the neck can be damaged resulting in extreme pain. In most of the cases, the cervical muscles in order to combat and protect the injured joints work heavily and this makes them weaker resulting in pain at the base of skull. Pain at base of skull hurts to turn head is generally due to weakness of cervical muscles. One of the main causes is dislocation of joint or when a joint is placed at wrong position for too long it can result in pain as well.

Cervical strains and injuries

  1. Diseases and tumors:

There are certain other factors which can result in pain at the base of skull, sinus infections and cold is among reasons for this pain. Arthritis is one of the key causes of pain at base of skull in elderly people; sometimes the brain abscess develops in the occipital area and can result in pain. Another disease which results in softening and destruction of bones is known as Paget’s disease and it can also result in sharp stabbing pain in the back of head at base of skull and neck. Some other less common causes of pain at base of skull, pain in back of head and neck are brain tumors, spinal or cerebral meningitis, brain aneurysms etc.

Treatment and Tips to Deal with the Pain at Base of Skull:

Pain at base of skull neck and shoulder are due to several reasons as we studied above. There are some effective tips which you can follow and get pain relief. The tips for pain in base of skull relief are mentioned below:

  1. Changes in posture:

Hand held devices, monitors, prolonged use of laptops can cause pain at base of skull. Keep such devices in a position where you don’t need to tilt your head down. Furthermore, you can keep on changing the posture quickly to reduce the strain at occipital muscles.

Changes in posture

  1. Don’t slump:

You can try different exercises like yoga, Tai chi and Pilates to improve the strength of cervical muscles. If the problem persists, you can consult a physio-therapist.

  1. Warm compress:

Apply a warm compress, place it on neck (at the base of skull), this increases the blood circulation and hence you will feel relieved. If you have pain at back of skull when pressed, it might be due to muscular weakness and warm compress facilitates faster flow of blood thereby strengthening the muscles.

Warm compress:

  1. Pain killers or analgesics:

The pain killers like Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, Naproxen can be used to treat pains. Sometimes when the use of these OTC analgesics fails to produce the desired outcomes, stronger pain killers like codeine are prescribed. Make it sure to consult doctor before taking any strong medicine as there are some side effects of such pain killers. Sometimes, when muscle or joints of the cervical region are hurting, you can also take some muscle relaxants to deal with the pain.

When to Consult Doctor?

It is always important to consult your health care provider if the pain is not relieved by simple home treatments and OTC analgesics. However if you experience the following conditions, you need to consult your doctor at first priority.

When to Consult Doctor

  • If you are suffering from other diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, AIDS or cancer and experiencing pain at base of skull. Pain at top of neck base of skull can be an indicator of serious underlying health concern as well.
  • Worsening in pain in base of skull down the neck with time
  • Pain at base of skull causing dizziness, inability to walk and frequent weight loss.

Bottom Line:

Pain at base of skull or pain in back of head at base of skull is caused by different reasons such as tension headaches, occipital neuralgia, brain tumors, muscle or nerve injury near cervical area, arthritis etc. There are some over the counter medicines to combat pain. You can use Paracetamol, ibuprofen, and naproxen along with simple home remedies like warm compress and some exercise. If you experience worsening of the symptoms, you need to consult your doctor soon.

Read this Article : 7 Causes of Waking up with a Headache Every Day & Treatments

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About the author

Jennifer K. Garcia

Jennifer K. Garcia is a is a health consultant form last 6 year. She is finally decided to run a blog to help people online.You can contact her via Email or follow her on Facebook. Also add him on