Headaches in the back of the head can be part of a cold, flu, arthritis, or induced by stress.

In America you “catch a cold”. In China, the cold catches you! (my apologies to Yakov Smirnov)

Not only can you catch a cold, which causes chills, but you can catch a heat which causes fever, a damp which makes you feel sluggish and heavy, or a wind which causes muscle spasms, nasal discharge and water eyes.

Cold, heat, and damp often arise with wind which has some interesting similarities to the biomedical idea that cold and flu viruses are spread through the so-called aerosol vector (sneezing or coughing into the air.)

Quick Guide – Occipital (rear) headache due to:

  1. Common cold
    • Formula: Notopterygium Conquer Dampness Decoction (Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang) [more]
  2. Flu with fever:
    • Formula: Bupleurum and Kudzu Decoction to Release the Muscle Layer Decoction (Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang) [more]
  3. Rainy weather like arthritis:
    • Formula: Notopterygium Conquer Dampness Decoction (Qiang Huo Sheng Shi Tang) [more]
  4. Stress, anger, rage, passion, impatience:
    • Formula: Gastrodia and Uncaria Decoction (Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin) [more]

In Chinese medical physiology, there are some weathers that can enter the body through the back of the neck.

  • If the energy that arrives is cold, expect some chills along with the pain.
  • If the energy that enters the neck is warm expect more fever and body aches in general.
  • If the energy that enters the back of the neck is damp, expect the body to feel achy and heavy.
  • Any of the above influences can arrive with “wind”, and often does. Wind alone will look like allergies.

In each of these cases, you’re going to have something in the body that doesn’t belong there. This can prevent qi and blood from flowing freely through all of the structures that move qi-energy and blood. This includes the acupuncture channels as well as blood vessels.

Whenever there is something clogging up the flow of qi-energy and blood, there will be structures that are not nourished which leads to pain. There is an ancient saying that says:

Where there is flow, there is no pain,
where there is pain, there is no flow.

When wind, cold, damp, and/or heat enters the wind points in the back of the neck, the flow of qi-energy and blood in that local area is compromised and so pain follows. This can cause pain in the upper back, neck, and/or back of the head.

There is another kind of headache that is caused by a different kind of wind. While wind from outside of the body can enter the wind points to cause muscle spasms that are very sensitive to drafts, there is also an internally generated wind that arises from the (Chinese concept of the) Liver, also leading to neck and shoulder tension and hence, occipital headaches.

This is where we get into headaches due to stress, rage, impatience, passion. In this case, our goal is to calm down and sedate the internal wind. For this situation, we use Gastrodia and Uncaria Decoction (Tian Ma Gou Teng Yin) [more]. This formula has some blood-pressure lowing effects too. Physicians may see a connection between hypertension (high blood pressure) and headaches, so in this regard we’re on the same page again. I may have a page that focuses on remedies to lower blood pressure eventually, but for now, if you’re interested in that, you’ll need to contact us for an individualized prescription.

Another type of headache that arises with the common cold or flu is more associated with the sinuses. It is called a “frontal” headache. That’s addressed in the forehead headache page.

If your cold is turning into a heat, you’ll see more fever than chills. If the fever becomes more pronounced, whole body aches may be the key symptom. In this case, the formula Bupleurum and Kudzu Decoction to Release the Muscle Layer Decoction (Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang) [more] is often used to lower the fever, as well as disperse the wind, cold, and heat. End result is you feel better quickly!

The herbs have a shelf-life of approximately four years. Why not order some now to have it on hand when you need it? As is the case with many Chinese herbal formulas for short-lived issues such as a cold or flu, the sooner you address the problem with herbs, the less severe or long-lasting will be your problem. When symptoms arise, hit the herbs hard (take them aggressively like every two hours), and the cold or flu will not get out of hand and lay you up for a week or three.

Be well, be VERY well.