The pain experienced at the occipital, which can travel towards the vertex is the occipital headache. The headache is associated with pain in the neck and the back. The pain occurs at the base of the skull.
Occipital headache occurs due to various reasons:
- Swelling, damage or pressure on the occipital nerves, upper cervical spinal root or sensory ganglion.
- When the pain occurs from swelling in the occipital nerve at its end between the occipital and the first cervical vertebra, it is known as occipital neuralgia.
The pain generally occurs near the eye, but it can from the head towards the eye. An occipital headache can cause migraine. The symptoms of occipital headache could be similar to tension type headaches and it is difficult to differentiate between the two. If you experience the pain in the back of the head, and is combined with the pain in the neck, then you could be suffering from a form of cervicogenic headache. There could be swelling of the nerves behind the skull, where the neck and the skull meet or in the second and third vertebrae.
If the headaches are accompanied with giddiness, there could be a vascular problem. Many arteries run across the back of the neck. If any of the arteries is pressed, it would lead to lack of oxygen supply. In extreme cases which have a rare incidence, lack of oxygen supply will increase the carbon content in the body and may prove fatal if left untreated. Thankfully, its occurrence is very rare.
Treatment of Occipital Headaches -
The doctor may advice an MRI to be done to reach at the root cause of the disease. Generally a small dose of steroid is advised to remove the blockages in case of occipital neuralgia. Some may be treated with injections in the neck. A good neck support is required if the headaches are more cervicogenic in nature. The doctor may suggest a neck belt and you may need to take some sessions of physiotherapy.
In addition to medication and physiotherapy, the patient may be required to take complete rest from the routine activities. For vascular headaches, the doctor may prescribe a drug named Verapamil. This will improve the blood flow and blood circulation in the affected part and ease the pain.
Home remedy for Occipital Headache -
- According to Ayurveda, occipital headache occurs when the balance between kapha(cough), pitta (acidity) and vayu(gas) in the body alters. When the acidity in the body increases, it causes occipital headache. Tea made of cumin and coriander seeds help cure occipital headaches.
- Doing Anulom Vilom Pranayam for about 20 minutes twice a day also cures occipital headaches. Deep breathing is also helpful in relieving the pain.
- Relax your neck and head often. Lie down for a while, if possible.
- Avoid working on a computer continuously, when you are suffering from occipital headache.
- Drinking lots of water will keep the body hydrated and free from any ailments. The toxins in the body are washed off by the water. It also improves the bladder and bowel movements.