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Ever wonder why you get pain at the base of my skull? This can be very concerning, even more so if it spreads. Larissa Christian is here to reassure and give you advice of the possible causes and self-treatment ideas.

Tension headaches

So you’ve Googled ‘Pain at the base of my skull‘ and you’re wondering what’s causing it. In a nutshell, the cause of the pain is usually down to a tension headache. Tension headaches are caused as a result of muscle tension and trigger points which build up in the surrounding msucles of the neck and head. All the muscles which control the movement of the neck are very small.  They are all accountable for very small subtle movements of the upper cervical spine and skull.  These muscles can come under tension for various reasons such as:

  • Eye strain
  • Adopting a slouching posture
  • Stress
  • Trauma

However, stress is the most common cause for tension headaches.

What is the pain like?

This pain is known to be described as a dull heaviness which starts at the base of the head, which spreads round like a band across the eyes. It can also spread from your neck to the back of your shoulders through the fibres of your upper trapezius. As such, the muscles may be very tender to touch or stretch.

Different types of headaches

There are two types of tension headaches; episodic and chronic.  Episodic headaches can last from 30 minutes, right up to a week. These are infrequent and will occur less than 15 days within a monthly period. On the other hand, a chronic tension headache can occur for more than 15 days in a month and last over 3 months.  If the pattern of your headaches changes, frequency increases to more than twice a week or you are concerned that the headache has become chronic, then you should seek medical advice from your Physiotherapist or GP.

Its easy to confuse migraines and tension headaches. Tension headaches are not associated with visual disturbances, nausea or vomiting.  Physical activity may aggravate a migraine, but this is not normally the case with a tension headache.

Why do I have pain at the base of my skull?

Occipital Neuralgia is a specific type of pain which can occur in the base of your skull.  This pain is easily confused with tension headaches. However, there’s a few differences between the two. Occipital Neuralgia is characterized by piercing, throbbing or electric shock like pains in the upper neck, base of skull and back of the ears.  The skull may also be sensitive to touch and looking into light will be uncomfortable.

Causes of these symptoms includ irritation or injury to the greater and lesser occipital nerves. This can be acute, from a trauma or a gradual onset due to tightening of the muscles surrounding the neck and compressing the nerves. The postives being, it’s not life-threatening and can be easily treated with heat, rest, anti-inflammatories and physiotherapy.

How to eliminate your tension headache

Ensure you are up to date with you eye examinations. Whether that is having your first eye examination or booking in for a review if it has been over two years since you’ve last been for one.

Check your workstation! You should not be slouching into your chair or leaning forward to reach the screen.  Your feet should be flat on the ground with a 90 degree angle from your hips to your knees.  You should aim to rest your elbows on the arm rests or table and aim to keep your back straight and supported. If in doubt, ask for an ergonomic assessment from your employer.

Keep your neck and head as mobile as possible.  Try and take regular breaks as this encourages you to naturally move your head and spine. This also prevents muscles tightening up.

Introducing yoga or meditation can help rid any tension headaches which may be caused by stressed. In addition to this, adopt a lifestyle which is benefical to your health. This includes getting enough sleep, not smoking, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet. Finally, remember to drink plenty of water and limit your alcohol, caffeine and sugar intake.

Need treatment? Don’t hesitate to get in touch today. Click here to find your nearest Capital Physio clinic, where our expert team of clinicians are ready to help you with a personalised treatment programme. Any questions? Contact our friendly team by calling 033 0333 0435 or emailing clientcare@capitalphysio.com. Finally, you can also find us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.