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Neck Pain at Base of Skull: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Cellaxys

By Published: November 2, 2022Updated: February 12, 2024No Comments
neck pain at base of skull
Dr Pejman Bady

Contributor

Medically Reviewed

Published on: November 2, 2022 | Updated on: February 12, 2024

Neck pain is a common condition in America, affecting about 30% of the population. Many factors can cause intense neck pain at the base of the skull, including electronic devices, nerve tension, disc injury, facet joint injury, ligament injury, etc.

The neck is a delicate and functional part of our body that provides movements. Any type of pain in the neck can disturb your day-to-day movements, leading to unusual headaches, dizziness, and discomfort in the back of the eyes.

Determining the exact point and reason for the neck pain at the base of the skull is the first step in treating it. While physical therapy works, orthobiologic treatments can also help relieve neck pain.

Anatomy of the Skull

The skull consists of complex tendons, muscles, nerves, and ligaments. The structure also involves the facet joints and the upper cervical spine. Irritation of these components can cause neck pain at the base of the skull. The symptoms may also include other types of pain in the neck and skull region.

Symptoms of Neck Pain at the Base of the Skull

Many people tend to ignore the common symptoms of neck pain at base of skull and relate them to other health conditions. Look for these signs to identify that you may have neck pain associated with the skull base:

  • Headaches
  • Bruised feeling at the back of the head
  • Pain behind eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling heavy-headed
  • Neck stiffness
  • Extreme tension at the base of the skull

Causes of Neck Pain at the Base of the Skull

Causes of Neck Pain at Base of Skull

Many mild and severe factors can cause neck pain at your skull base. These include:

Muscle Strain

Our skull has a group of suboccipital muscles at the base. These four paired muscles are attached to the two cervical bones on the upper side of the skull. These muscles can become strained and tensed due to various factors, including:

  • Maintaining a poor posture at the workstation
  • Wearing eyeglasses
  • Eye strain
  • Trauma
  • Insufficient ergonomics in the workplace

All these factors can result in severe neck pain at the base of the skull.

Facet Joint Injury

A facet is a small joint located in the back area of the spine. It is lined with cartilage and is a paired joint on the right and left at each spine level. But you have a right facet joint named C2/3 and a left joint called C3/4 and continue.

This joint takes care of your spine’s movement, but unfortunately, it is susceptible to multiple injuries caused by trauma, degeneration, and instability. The facet joint injury can cause chronic neck pain at the base of the skull.

Disc Injury

Discs protect our spinal bones from sudden shocks. They are sandwiched between every bone and absorb shock and trauma. But they are also susceptible to numerous injuries to the spine caused by trauma, surgery, infection, degeneration, and instability.

Disc injuries can limit your motion, cause inflammation, and cause severe neck pain at the base of the skull.

Ligament Injury

Ligaments keep all the bones in our body connected for maximum stability. They are thick connective tissues present throughout the body, including the neck. Some of the ligaments in the neck include the interspinous and supra ligaments. These ligaments can be affected by traumas, particularly motor vehicle accidents.

Some connective tissue disorders, such as hypermobility or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, can also damage ligaments. Loose ligaments can irritate the suboccipital muscles, nerves, facet joints, and discs, leading to severe neck pain at the base of the skull.

Nerve Irritation

The upper cervical area of our skull consists of occipital nerves that travel to the skull’s base. The ligaments, fascia, and neck muscles can sometimes compress these nerves. As a result, you may feel various symptoms, including headache, pain behind the eye, and severe neck pain at the skull’s base.

Conservative Treatments for Neck Pain at the Base of Skull

The proper treatment for neck pain depends upon its underlying cause. Mild pains can easily be treated through the first-line, conservative methods. Depending on your condition, your doctor may suggest the following things:

  • Practice Meditation or Yoga. Practicing yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation can help you release considerable tension from your head, thereby treating headaches and heaviness.
  • Follow a Good Lifestyle. Sleeping for 8 hours, avoiding smoking, exercising regularly, and eating a balanced diet are the keys to a good lifestyle. It keeps your head clear and free from stress, releasing pressure from your neck and skull base.
  • Maintain Your Eye Level With the PC. Ensure you aren’t bending over or leaning forward from your seat to reach the PC screen when working. Keep your knees 90 degrees from the hips, your back straight, and your elbows on the table to avoid muscle tension.
  • Follow Ice/Heat Therapy. If you feel inflammation on your neck and the base of your skull, placing an ice or heat pack may help relieve pain. The heating pad may work more effectively for neck pain as it expands the blood vessels and enhances blood flow to the neck. This reduces muscle stiffness. Remember to never use an ice/heat pack directly on your skin for over 20 minutes.
  • Massage Your Neck. Try putting gentle pressure on your skull base and neck with your fingers. This massage helps relieve tension and strengthen your muscles. You can also release the pressure on your neck by placing a folded towel under your neck and head while lying down. You can also do chin tucks regularly to tighten your shoulder muscles.

Regenerative Methods for Neck Pain at the Base of Skull

Nowadays, we have multiple quick, less invasive, and less painful methods to treat neck pain at the base of the skull. The two most common ones include platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy and cell-based or stem cell therapies.

Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy

In the PRP process performed at CELLAXYS, we isolate platelets from your blood plasma, concentrate them, and then reinject them into the base of the skull. Platelets serve as the first line of defense against injuries.

These healing components perform three crucial functions: producing 10 Growth Factors, attracting healing cells from the blood, and creating a web-like scaffolding called fibrin. All these functions promote quick recovery and healing in the injury site.

PRP is performed within 45 minutes, and the doctor may allow you to go home after the procedure.

Cell-based Therapies

Also, popular as stem cell therapies, cell-based therapies extract your “autologous” or own tissues, process them, and reinject them into the base of your skull. Depending on your situation, we opt for one of the two types of cell-based therapies:

  • Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue Transplant (MMAT). It is when the doctor takes healthy cells from your adipose (fat) tissue. MMAT can be performed at multiple locations using the same procedure.

Cell-based therapies take about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete, and you may go home soon. The doctor uses live X-rays and ultrasounds to identify the injury site and boost its recovery.

Sources

Footnotes

References

CELLAXYS does not offer Stem Cell Therapy as a cure for any medical condition. No statements or treatments presented by Cellaxys have been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This site contains no medical advice. All statements and opinions are provided for educational and informational purposes only.

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Pouya Mohajer, M.D. is the Director of Spine and Interventional Medicine for CELLAXYS: Age, Regenerative, and Interventional Medicine Centers. He has over 20 years of experience in pain management, perioperative medicine, and anesthesiology. Dr. Mohajer founded and is the Medical Director of Southern Nevada Pain Specialists and PRIMMED Clinics. He has dedicated his career to surgical innovation and scientific advancement. More about the doctor on this page.

neck pain at base of skull

Dr Pejman Bady

Contributor

Dr. Pejman Bady began his career over 20 years ago in Family/Emergency Medicine, working in fast-paced emergency departments in Nevada and Kansas. He has served the people of Las Vegas as a physician for over two decades. Throughout this time, he has been met with much acclaim and is now the head of Emergency Medical Services in Nye County, Nevada. More about the doctor on this page.

Dr. Pouya Mohajer

Pouya Mohajer, M.D. is the Director of Spine and Interventional Medicine for CELLAXYS: Age, Regenerative, and Interventional Medicine Centers. He has over 20 years of experience in pain management, perioperative medicine, and anesthesiology. Dr. Mohajer founded and is the Medical Director of Southern Nevada Pain Specialists and PRIMMED Clinics. He has dedicated his career to surgical innovation and scientific advancement. More details about the doctor on this page.

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