The base of the neck is made up of occipital bone which is connected to the atlas and axis which are the first two cervical bones. The atlas and the axis are the bones that connects the skull and the spine. These bones are responsible for the turning and nodding actions of the neck. If there is pain felt at the base of the neck, it can affect normal movement of the neck. Pain in the neck is caused by compression of nerves that pass through this complex area known as the sub-occipital area.
Pain at the base of the neck can also cause occipital headaches. This makes simple actions such as combing the hair difficult. The pain can spread to the arms and shoulders and makes the muscles of the neck stiff. The affected person will experience weakness of the arm. In severe cases, the affected person has difficulty in holding his/her head and walks with a stooped neck.
Causes of pain at the base of the neck
- Cervical slipped disc can cause pain at the base of the skull.
- Trauma or chronic diseases such as arthritis can cause pain at the base of the skull
- A bone spur that develops in the cervical bone. It adds pressure on some nerves, tissues and muscles, thus resulting to stiffness, tingling sensation and pain. The pain caused by compression and spasms of the muscles can spread to the base of the neck.
- Poor posture of the neck causes pain at the base. It constantly adds strain and stress on the muscles and ligaments which function in supporting the neck and head are susceptible. If an individual works on a computer for extended periods for several days and months, he/she is at risk for developing pain at the base of the neck.
- An inflammation of the occipital nerve. It is the nerve that supplies the skin of the scalp and once it is damaged or compressed due to a slipped disc or an injury, it can cause a headache which is also called as occipital headache that usually occurs at the base of the skull.
Treatment and home remedies of pain at the base of the neck
- Massage using menthol creams or oils the affected area since this helps in relieving stiffness and stress of the muscles and tissues that function in supporting the neck and skull.
- Acupressure can help in relieving pain at the base of the neck.
- Apply a warm compress over the affected area. Take note that heat helps promote an increase in the blood circulation in the area as well as minimize stiffness of the muscles. Apply heat in moderation. Place a warm towel around the neck in order to relax the cervical muscles and minimize pain.
- Encourage the individual to rest and wear a collar for the neck since it helps relax the muscles and promote faster recovery.