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Headache at Base of Skull

When a headache appears at the base of the skull, it is often a sign of nerve damage. However, there are many more other causes that can lead to such problems. The headache is often accompanied by a sensation of tension and pain. The pain can radiate to other parts of the body, such as the shoulder or the neck, impairing the active moments in the area. Sometimes, the pain extends to the muscles, causing them to become rigid and reducing mobility even further.

If the headache at the base of the skull has a neurological cause, then the pain and tension can radiate to the arms. This will cause the arms to become weak; the patient might even describe twitching in the muscles. In severe headaches, the movements of the head in all planes are difficult to execute, especially when it comes to bending or extending the head. Patients describe the feeling as if something was holding them just at the base of the skull. The skin can also be highly irritable; it is enough to gently stroke the skin and a high amount of pain will be provoked. In the last part of the article, you will find information about the remedies that can bring relief and measures that you can take in order to avoid such problems.

What Causes Headache at Base of Skull?

These are the most common causes of the headache at the base of the skull:

  • Neck injury/trauma
    • Accident – whiplash (encountered in car accidents, in people who wear their seatbelt during the moment of impact)
    • Contact sports
    • Discomfort associated with headache and pain
  • Autoimmune disorders
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
      • Inflammation of the neck joints
      • Deterioration of cartilage
      • Joints might suffer modifications as well
  • Herniated disc
    • The disc is the one protecting one vertebral column from the other
    • It can be partially or completely herniated
    • The more severe the pain at the base of the skull, the higher the chance for the disc to be 100% herniated
    • Headache accompanied by rigidity, sensation of tension, burning or tingling
    • Certain movements might be impossible to perform
  • Excessive physical effort
    • Too much stress placed on the neck muscles can lead to headache at the base of the skull
  • Neurological problems
    • Nerve damage – impairment
    • Occipital neuralgia
  • Other causes
    • Skull tumor
    • Osteoporosis
    • Poor posture
    • Inadequate sleeping position
    • Sedentary lifestyle.

How to Treat Headache at Base of Skull?

These are the most common courses of treatment undertaken for headache at base of the skull:


  • Recommended especially for patients who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis
  • Reduce the inflammation, bring pain relief
  • Topical administration (cream/ointment)
  • Oral administration is recommended only in more severe cases
  • The treatment should not be followed for prolonged periods of time, as it can have serious side-effects

Muscle relaxers

  • Recommended especially in the situation of a neck injury or trauma
  • If one chooses anti-inflammatory medication, such as acetaminophen, then pain relief is guaranteed at the same time with the relaxation of the muscles

Traction of the neck

  • Muscles and ligaments are stretched, the tension accumulated in the area being eliminated
  • If there is a compressed disc or a nerve that has been entrapped, one has a very good chance to escape from such problems through this procedure

Chiropractic adjustment

  • Spinal manipulation – alignment of spinal bones


  • Exercise program to reduce the tension felt in the muscles
  • The exercises can also be chosen to increase range of motion
  • By choosing certain movements, the program will allow for simple, daily activities to be resumed


  • Recommended in case of occipital neuralgia
  • Main objective – reduced nerve pressure


Relief from headache at base of skull can be obtained by taking plenty of rest, sleeping and choosing adequate positions. Also, taking anti-inflammatory medication will reduce the intensity of the symptoms. Relief can also be obtained through active movement; after a physical evaluation, the physiotherapist will be able to provide a comprehensive therapy program, designed to relieve the pain and improve the mobility. Also, there are plenty of home remedies that can be tried out, bringing you the much desired relief from the headache.


These are the most common remedies you can consider for this type of headache:

  • Caffeine
    • You can either drink a cup of coffee or take anti-inflammatory medication that has caffeine as main ingredient
    • Caffeine will relieve all of the symptoms caused by the headache at the base of the skull
  • Breathing therapy
    • Deep breathing exercises
    • Mental imagining techniques
    • Objective – reduce stress and tension
  • If the headaches appear sporadically, then you should consider taking a hot shower. The heat will help you relax your muscle and it will eliminate the tension you commonly feel. Other sources of heat include: warm compresses, hot water bottles or warm towels.
  • Cold can also be recommended for headaches located at the base of the skull. You can place a cold compress and wait for it to do its magic. If you want to put an ice pack, then you might want to wrap it first in a towel. Otherwise, it might do more harm than good, as the vasoconstriction will be quite intense.
  • Massage
    • Best remedy against headaches
    • Relieves muscle tension and promotes relaxation
    • If there is a specific painful spot, this should be given more attention
    • The massage should not be intense, as it can aggravate the headache
    • A gentle massage is recommended for the desired effects
  • Other remedies can be obtained through:
    • Pressure on specific points (acupressure)


If you are interested in preventing the headache at the base of the skull, here is what you need to do:

  • Eliminate food enhances from your diet (monosodium glutamate)
    • Can cause severe headaches in people who are sensitive to it
  • Avoid foods that contain chemical substances (nitrates, amines)
    • Chocolate
    • Bread
    • Beans
    • Processed foods
  • Include fish-oil supplements in your diet
    • Not only does fish oil reduces the frequency of the headaches but it also guarantees that they are less intense when they appear
  • Make sure that you eat ginger
  • Improve your posture
    • Self correction
    • Physical therapy program
    • Better sleeping position
  • Reduce your caffeine quantity
    • In small quantity, caffeine can help with a headache
    • When generous quantities are consumed, it can lead to headaches
    • Quitting the consumption of coffee all of a sudden can also caused headaches
  • Take magnesium supplements
    • Reduce the tension felt in the muscles

In conclusion, when it comes to headache at the base of the skull, there are medical treatments and natural remedies recommended. If the headache does not go away, then perhaps it might be a good idea to visit a doctor. The specialist might decide whether further investigations are required. Some headaches are required by tumors, so aggressive treatment against them must be started as soon as it is possible. Also, the patient is responsible of understanding that poor posture is often responsible for the appearance of such headaches. Automatic correction and following a strict physical therapy program can lead to the improvement of posture, followed by the disappearance of the headaches.

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