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Headache in the back of the neck: 9 possible causes and how to relieve it

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High blood pressure, meningitis and extreme stress can be some of the factors that trigger headaches in the back of the neck.

Headache in the back of the neck can indicate several health factors. In most cases, the problem is caused by excess muscle tension, especially due to situations of stress and anxiety.

However, pain may be present in some emergencies, with severity and urgency of treatment, such as meningitis, high blood pressure or aneurysm. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the intensity and frequency of the problem – and if there are associated symptoms, such as nausea, fever and nausea.



According to data from the International Classification of Headache Disorders, there are more than 200 types of headache and, to define the cause of each one, they are classified into two types:

  • Primary headache: it is one that is not related to any clinical condition, that is, it is not caused by any disease or condition. It is the most common type of headache and includes migraine, cluster headache and tension headache;
  • Secondary headache: is defined as a symptom of some disease or condition, such as viral bacterial infections, meningitis, brain tumors, aneurysms and head injuries, for example.

Learn more: Types of Headache: Symptoms, Causes, and How to Relieve

In any case, the incidence of a constant and intense headache must be evaluated by a neurologist, who will be able to indicate the necessary tests to obtain the diagnosis and, in this way, indicate the most appropriate treatment for each case.

In this context, MinhaVida separated the nine causes of headaches in the back of the neck and how to alleviate the condition. Check out!



1. High blood pressure

Arterial hypertension is a chronic disease characterized by high levels of blood pressure in the arteries and occurs when the values ​​of maximum and minimum pressures are equal to or exceed 140/90 mmHg, that is, 14 by 9.

When high blood pressure is high, usually due to stressful situations, a headache can occur in the back of the neck, which then radiates to the forehead, associated with a feeling of heaviness in the head. The problem may be associated with other symptoms, such as dizziness, vomiting, and blurred, blurry vision.

“Increased vessel pressure, for some people, can sensitize the area, that is, make the local sensory innervation more perceptive of pain”, explains Leonardo Sousa Bernardes, a neurologist specializing in Neuro-Oncology at Hospital Albert Sabin.

In some cases, the specialist explains that high blood pressure can actually be a consequence of a headache. It is important to consult a specialist for a more adequate diagnosis.

2. Stress and Anxiety

The muscle tension that causes a headache in the back of the neck can also be caused by anxiety and stress, triggering pain in the muscles in the region. Also called tension headache, the problem can be caused by physical factors such as improperly performed physical activities, poor sleep quality, and overwork.

Learn more: 7 tips to fight stress naturally

3. Cervicogenic headache

Cervicogenic headache, which belongs to the group of secondary headaches, is a type of headache caused by an injury to structures in the cervical region, such as vertebrae, intervertebral discs and ligament, according to Leonardo.

Problems such as osteoarthritis, arthritis and inflammation in the ligaments of the spine are the most common factors that cause pain in the back of the neck and should be investigated by a specialist to avoid possible complications.

4. Aneurysm

An aneurysm is an abnormal swelling that appears in the walls of a blood vessel, usually an artery, and in any part of the body. In the case of cerebral aneurysms, although most cases do not present symptoms, the rupture of the vessel in the region close to the back of the neck can trigger a sudden and severe headache, becoming disabling.

If you suspect the condition, seek medical help immediately, as the aneurysm can have serious consequences, such as a stroke and even death.

5. Torticollis

Muscle problems, contractures and stiff necks are common causes of headaches in the back of the neck. Usually, they can appear after intense practice of physical exercises for the back or shoulders, in addition to poor posture during the day and when sleeping.

Severe pain, if left untreated, can cause limitations in the freedom of movement of the head and neck and directly affect well-being. Therefore, if the use of home remedies does not relieve the pain, it is essential to seek medical help – as the use of medication may be necessary.

6. Bad posture

Bad posture is one of the main factors that causes neck pain and is especially manifested in people who work seated and at the computer. In general, the pain is triggered by the lack of ergonomics of the work furniture, with a lack of support for the arms and legs and chairs and screens at inappropriate heights.

Nowadays, the headache in the back of the neck caused by bad posture affects more and more young people, due to the excessive cell phone use as a reading medium—which holds its head down for much longer than is recommended.

In the long term, poor posture can trigger more serious health problems such as scoliosis, lordosis and herniated discs, as well as causing frequent tiredness and difficulty sleeping.

7. Meningitis

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and one of the most frequent clinical manifestations is intense pain, which may be accompanied by stiffness in the back of the neck and difficulty in lowering the head. In some cases, it may appear with other symptoms such as fever, vomiting and excessive tiredness, according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders.

8. Sinusitis

Sinusitis is inflammation of the lining of the sinuses and, in addition to forehead headache, chronic and acute conditions can also cause headache in the back of the neck and a feeling of heaviness in the head. Other symptoms may also arise, such as cough, fever and nasal congestion.

9. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a disease that causes degeneration of joints, including those in the neck, and can be responsible for frequent pain in the back of the neck throughout the day. Typically, this type of pain can make it difficult for your neck to move and affect day-to-day activities. Although it is more common in the elderly, it can also affect young people.

How to relieve a headache in the back of the neck?

Headache treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Secondary headaches caused by muscle problems, such as torticollis, arthrosis and injuries to structures in the cervical region, should be treated with the administration of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs previously prescribed by an orthopedist, in addition to a conservative treatmentsuch as acupuncture and physical therapy.

In the suspicion of other diseases, such as meningitis and aneurysm, it is important to seek help from a doctor as soon as possible due to the risk of health complications. In most cases, the pain resolves with treatment of these problems.

As for headache caused by stress and anxiety, it is possible to resort to home remedies that promote relief, such as massages, compresses and teas. If that doesn’t work, you may need pain relievers such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen.

In all cases, the practice of physical exercises and healthy lifestyle habits contribute to prevention and treatment. See 7 ways to relieve headache without medication.



Content for educational purposes only. Consult a Doctor.

The translator user relied on the following source:

Minha Vida Website – REF99827

Disclaimer – (English version>) This content has been prepared based on information from research, additional publications, or the translation/verification work of a volunteer editor of this web council. This is a non-profit service. It is strongly recommended that all details and information published be carefully verified. We never allow medication recommendations, medication package inserts or any medication guidance. We never allow partisan politics as information.

Isenção de responsabilidade – (versão em português): Este conteúdo foi preparado com base em informações de pesquisas, publicações adicionais ou no trabalho de tradução/verificação de um editor voluntário deste conselho web. Este é um serviço sem fins lucrativos. É altamente recomendável que todos os detalhes e informações publicadas sejam verificadas cuidadosamente. Nunca permitimos recomendações de medicamentos, bulas ou qualquer orientação sobre medicamentos. Nunca permitimos a política partidária como base para checagem. Para mais informações, leia nossos termos.

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