HomeNewsCan Migraines Make Your Scalp Hurt

Can Migraines Make Your Scalp Hurt

Interrelated Neck And Scalp Pain

A Painful Ponytail!

The usual manner in which neck pain is related to discomfort experienced in the head is through a particular type of syndrome called a tension-style headache. This is the most widely experienced form of headache, also called a common headache.Unfortunately, many victims mistakenly call tension headaches migraines. Migraine headaches are caused by the same mechanism of ischemia. However, migraines involve oxygen deprivation of a particular blood vessel in the brain itself, while tension headaches affect the muscular structures in and around the head. Furthermore, migraines are most often precipitated by the visual phenomenon known as an aura, where tension headaches typically lack this scintillating light pattern in the peripheral vision of the victim, prior to onset of actual pain.

Tension headaches usually act regionally, depriving all the muscular structures in a particular region of the neck and head of necessary oxygen. This causes a regional pain pattern that typically grows as the headache develops, often encompassing a full half or more of the head. Patients most often report the start of symptoms unilaterally at the base of the skull. Less commonly, pain might begin behind one eye or just behind one ear. Typically, symptoms will spread across the head, back to front and encompass a full side or more of the total head. These torturous headaches can last an hour or a few days, with the average span of symptoms enduring overnight in many instances.

Understand Your Color Chemistry

Another notorious cause of hair pain may be your regular date with hair dye or bleach, which Jaliman knows all about firsthand. I had premature graying very young, and after so many years of coloring, I developed an intolerance and my hair would hurt whenever I got a touch-up, she says. The dermatologist turned to a chemistry solution; she has her colorist mix a SweetN Low packet into the dye to change the pH level to better suit the scalp without affecting the color, and she no longer feels the burn. Unfortunately, the trick doesnt work with bleach, which can cause such high levels of irritation that Jaliman has prescribed topical steroids to quell the fury for patients with unwavering blonde ambition.

Can Migraines Be Prevented Or Avoided

Medicine to prevent migraines may be helpful if your headaches happen more than 2 times a month. You may want to consider this medicine if your headaches make it hard for you to work and function. These medicines are taken every day, whether you have a headache or not.

Preventive medications for migraines can include prescription drugs often used to treat other ailments. Anti-seizure medicines, antidepressants, medicines to lower blood pressure, and even Botox injections are some of the preventive medications your doctor may prescribe. Calcitonin gene-related peptide inhibitors can also help prevent migraines. They do so by blocking a gene-related peptide in your sensory nerves. This peptide is known to increase during a migraine attack, so blocking it can help prevent migraines.

There are also a number of non-medical treatments designed to help minimize migraine pain and frequency. One is an electrical stimulation device, which has been approved by the FDA. It is a headband that you wear once a day for 20 minutes to stimulate the nerve linked to migraines. Another non-medical treatment is counseling aimed at helping you feel in more control of your migraines. This counseling works best when paired with medical prevention of migraines, as well.

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What Does Pain On Top Of The Head Scalp Mean

Pain on top of the head scalp or scalp tenderness is associated with various types of headaches. To be more specific, scalp tenderness often has to do with problems in the nerves that run from the forehead to the back of the neck.

Also, certain conditions make these nerves to restrict or swell. Thus, it results in pain that moves throughout the scalp, the entire head, and neck. According to Johns Hopkins University, this particular pain causes intense, hot, electric-like shocks.

What Is A Migraine

A migraine is not simply a bad headache. A migraine is an intense headache that may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea , vomiting , visual problems and an increased sensitivity to light or sound.

Migraines commonly last between four hours and three days. Some people experience migraines several times a week. Others might only experience attacks every few years. If you experience headaches on 15 days or more each month, and eight of these headaches are migraines, this is known as chronic migraine.

Although migraines are not life-threatening and do not shorten peoples life expectancies, they can significantly damage the quality of peoples lives. A World Health Organisation study identified migraine as the sixth highest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability . Repeated migraines can have a negative impact on family life, social life and employment.

There are two main types of migraine: migraine without aura and migraine with aura .

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What Types Of Headache Are Serious Or Dangerous

All headaches are unpleasant and some, such as headache from medication misuse, are serious in the sense that when not tackled properly they may never go away. However, a few headaches are signs of serious underlying problems. These are uncommon – in many cases very rare.

Dangerous headaches tend to occur suddenly, and to become progressively worse over time. They are more common in older people. They include the following:

Treating Allodynia Headaches And Migraine

Paula Dumas: We talked about what makes somebody more likely to have allodynia. If you experience sensitivity to touch and you are struggling with it, what can you do to minimize those symptoms?

Dr. Gretchen Tietjen: I think the main thing is: you have to prevent the headaches. I really think that is the basic point, because people will experience allodynia during a bad headache or migraine. The fewer migraines you get, the less likely you are to have it.

Paula Dumas: Are there any new or existing treatments that you think can help reduce the symptoms?

Dr. Gretchen Tietjen: A study back in 2004 found that triptans actually sometimes make allodynia worse

I think the treatment has improved, though. When people have chronic allodynia and chronic headaches, because usually those two go together, I found that cognitive behavioral therapies is a very good treatment in addition to whatever preventive medication a person decides to use.

CBT is great because it doesn’t change the stressors around you, it changes your body’s response to stress.

Paula Dumas: How does cognitive behavioral therapy help reduce migraine and the sensitivity to touch associated with it?

Dr. Gretchen Tietjen: If you can increase your threshold for getting a headache when you are stressed, then you’ll probably get fewer headaches. Most of the studies have cited that people can have about 50% fewer headaches or less intense headaches.


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So Can My Hair Really Hurt

There you have it, the most common reasons your hair can feel like it’s hurting. But it’s not that your hair hurts. Instead, the pain is coming from your scalp. If your scalp pain persists after trying the above remedies or if you have a more serious scalp condition, the best course of action is to consult your doctor to help you get it resolved.


  • Having fine hair might seem like a blessing…

Sharp Pain In Head When To See A Doctor

Migraine Pain Symptoms

Most headaches, even sharp pains in your head, arent a symptom of a serious medical condition. Usually, the sharp, stabbing pains are caused by a trigger or some event that affects the blood vessels and nerves in your head.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says that you should see a doctor for severe headaches if they are accompanied by any of the following conditions:1

  • A stiff neck that accompanies a sudden, severe headache.
  • You have nausea, vomiting, or a fever and severe head pains that arent related to another illness.
  • You have stabbing head pains after a head injury.
  • You experience seizures, shortness of breath, loss of sensations or weakness in any part of your body.
  • You have a drooping eye or eyelid with a severe headache.
  • You are over the age of 50 and start getting severe, stabbing pains in your head.

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Nonsurgical Options For Occipital Neuralgia

Medications and a set of three steroid injections, with or without botulinum toxin, can “calm down” the overactive nerves. Some patients respond well to non-invasive therapy and may not require surgery; however, some patients do not get relief and may eventually require surgical treatment.

There are other treatment options such as burning the nerve with a radio-wave probe or eliminating the nerve with a small dose of toxin. However, these are not always the best choice since either treatment can permanently deaden the nerve, resulting in scalp numbness.

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When You Have A Bacterial Or Fungal Overgrowth

Why it happens: Infection

If you’re also dealing with bumps, scabs, and burning or stinging sensations, you might have an infection. The culmination of these factors tight hairstyles, tugging on your hair, product buildup can also be a sign of infections such as scalp folliculitis, aka a bacterial or fungal infection around the follicles on your scalp. According to Dr. Nichols, “Yeast, bacteria and mites may also cause folliculitis, which can cause pain or burning.” 

What you can do about it: Seek professional help.

Thankfully, there are several ways to remedy folliculitis. Consult with your medical doctor, a dermatologist or a trichologist to find out the best way to treat it.

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Treatments Home Remedies And Prevention

Scalp pain treatment usually varies depending on the causes or symptoms.  The treatments may range from just simple over the counter pain relievers to stronger prescribed medications such as oral antibiotics. Here are the commonly used treatments:

  • Special medicated sensitive scalp shampoos for relieving itchiness or dry flaky scalp.
  • Over the counter medications that help relieve inflammation or head the leads to scalp sensitivity
  • Oral or topical antihistamines can also provide scalp pain relief
  • Antibiotic and antifungal medications

Understanding Sensitivity To Touch Aka Allodynia

Despite its clinical sounding name, allodynia is a common symptom found in many diseases, including migraine. Up to 80% of people with migraine experience symptoms of allodynia during an attack. The most basic definition of allodynia is a painful sensation after a light touch from something that should not be painful, like a hair brush, waistband, or ponytail.

Research suggests that allodynia is one of the risk factors that can lead to episodic migraine turning into chronic migraine. Since it is such a common and important symptom of migraine, we wanted to get a better idea of what sensitivity to touch is and how to best prevent it.

Paula K. Dumas, managing editor of Migraine Again, sat down with headache specialist Gretchen Tietjen, MD, chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Toledo College of Medicine. Dr. Tietjen has conducted numerous studies and written several articles on both migraines and allodynia.

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When You Keep The Same Hairstyle For A Long Time

Why it happens: Compression

Wearing your hair in any same style for days at a time, whether it’s a ponytail, cornrows or braids, can contribute to feelings of tenderness and soreness around each hair follicle. 

According to Dr. Bailey, keeping up the same hairstyle or even a hair part leaves your hair too accustomed to being in one position, which can cause sensitivity. As a result, When you move your hair back the other direction, this can result in sensitivity or pain, as the nerve endings around the follicles are now being pulled a direction they aren’t used to facing,” he said.

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What you can do about it: Switch it up, and brush your hair.

Dr. Bailey also suggests avoiding wearing any specific style for an extended amount of time, including overnight. This is so your follicles aren’t forced in any one direction they wouldnt normally lie, such as if you wear a ponytail for too long. “Before bed, let your hair down or put it in a loose bun to ensure this slow transformation of hair follicle direction doesn’t take place.”

If you dont wash your hair and you keep it in the same style, it can feel sore because it lacks hair and scalp stimulation. If youre that girl who has to go five days without washing, then brush your scalp. Use a Paddle Brush to rub the head and revive blood flow. Rearrange your hair direction too.

What Commonly Triggers A Migraine

People who get migraines may be able to identify triggers that seem to kick off the symptoms. Some possible triggers include the following:

  • Stress and other emotions
  • Biological and environmental conditions, such as hormonal shifts or exposure to light or smells
  • Fatigue and changes in one’s sleep pattern
  • Glaring or flickering lights

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Fibromyalgia Endometriosis And Other Conditions Comorbid With Migraine

Dr. Gretchen Tietjen: For instance, I think the reason we see so much overlap in people with migraine and syndromes such as fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, interstitial cystitis , and endometriosis is because each one of those conditions is a problem of central sensitization in the nervous system.

And when you have fibromyalgia and your muscles hurt, it’s not really a problem of the muscle per se. It is a problem of the signals going to the muscles, and the same is true for some of these other conditions. Endometriosis is a little bit different, because it has actual pathology that you can easily identify on the tissue outside.

Paula Dumas: You can perform a scan and detect endometriosis.

Dr. Gretchen Tietjen: Exactly, so what happens is the tissue glues onto the nerves that connect organs to the nervous system, it goes into the spinal cord, and it turns on the whole pain system there. I had discovered years ago by conducting a couple of studies that people with migraine had endometriosis more often than would be expected based on how prevalent it usually is.

When To See Your Doctor

TMJ and Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Animation.

If you experience a new toothache and/or headache, be sure to see your doctor. Figuring out the underlying diagnosis can be tricky, even for your healthcare provider, so it’s important to be persistent about finding the cause.

For instance, if you still have no relief after undergoing dental procedures for toothaches, talk to your primary care doctor about seeing a headache specialist, neurologist, or ear, nose, and throat doctor.

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Which Muscles Are At Fault

Headaches on the top of the head especially tension headaches and migraines are typically caused by just a few muscles.

The first is a group of muscles called suboccipital muscles, which are responsible for movement between the first and second vertebrae in the neck and the skull. These muscles can become tense due to factors like grinding your teeth, eye strain, or poor posture. This alone can trigger tension headaches and migraines. If these muscles become too tense, they can compress the occipital nerve, causing occipital neuralgia.

The splenius cervicus and splenius capitus muscles, which run up the neck, can also cause headache pain at the top of the head if theyre too tight. Tension in these muscles can also cause a stiff neck or neck pain in addition to headaches.

When Your Hair Is Dirty

Why it happens: Yeast overgrowth and dandruff

While it’s healthy to avoid overwashing your hair, doing the opposite also comes with negative repercussions. In short, your scalp’s natural oils continue to accumulate around the hair shaft, which in turn encourages the overgrowth of yeast on your scalp. This yeast buildup tends to lead to dandruff that manifests into inflammation, causing hypersensitivity that can feel like your hair is hurting.

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What you can do about it: Nourish and stimulate your scalp.

A hair serum or a pH-balancing shampoo treatment can prevent yeast overgrowth and dandruff while nourishing your hair from its roots.

What’s more, if you tend to go long periods of time without washing your hair, you can still maintain a healthy blood supply to your scalp while regulating excess grease from your oil glands by simply brushing your hair regularly. And on in-between days, a plant-based dry shampoo is your friend.

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How Is Scalp Pain Treated

Treatments vary depending on the cause or symptom. Special shampoos like Selsun Blue or Head & Shoulders can help alleviate itchiness or dry, flaky scalp.

Change your shampoo, rinse your hair more carefully, and brush your hair gently. Ibuprofen or similar over-the-counter medication may help relieve inflammation or headaches that cause sensitivity.

Certain essential oils, such as lavender or rosemary, can help heal sores that may be causing scalp pain. However, applying undiluted essential oil to your scalp may make your symptoms worse. Youll need to dilute it first.

To dilute the oil, mix 4 to 6 drops of essential per each ounce of a carrier oil. Sweet almond oil works well for the hair.

Before applying to your scalp, test the mixture on a small patch of skin, say, on your forearm. Wait 24 hours to determine whether your skin is going to have a reaction. If it doesnt, it should be okay to use the mixture on your head.

Gently massage the mixture into your hair and scalp. Leave it in for 15 to 20 minutes, and then wash it out. You may need to apply a gentle shampoo up to three times and rinse well.

Depending on your symptoms, you may need to seek medical attention. If first-line treatments arent relieving your irritation, your doctor may prescribe stronger medication or special shampoo. If special care is needed, you doctor may refer you to a dermatologist.

What Does Sensitvity To Touch Mean For Migraines

Paula Dumas: But where does allodynia fit in with migraine and these diseases? What does this mean for those of us who get migraines?

Dr. Gretchen Tietjen: We looked at migraine patients and one of the things that we found was that people who had one or more of these conditions: fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic pain, endometriosis, and interstitial cystitis, the more likely that they were to complain of allodynia with their headaches.

So allodynia was really a kind of marker for having a kind of migraine, especially if you have it chronically, a migraine plus syndrome.

Paula Dumas: Is early childhood stress connected to migraine in adulthood?

Dr. Tietjen: Another thing we had found, and I think it was buried in the one paper that I had written on allodynia a number of years ago, was that people who had a lot of early life stress were more likely to complain of allodynia. Their whole systems were sensitized, so maybe when they get acute stress in the form of a headache, they just tend to hurt.

Dr. Tietjen: One of the things that I’m presenting tomorrow that I think is very interesting is an animal model that we looked at in ratsWe liken it to what could happen in humans if there is a lot of stress early in their life like, sickness, family issues, abuse, etc. As people get older and encounter stress, it probably makes them more prone to pain and some of these conditions.

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Surgical Options For Occipital Neuralgia

Surgical options include decompression of the greater occipital nerves along their course, called occipital release surgery.

In this outpatient procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the back of the neck to expose the greater occipital nerves and release them from the surrounding connective tissue and muscles that may be compressing them. The surgeon can address other nerves that may be contributing to the problem, such as the lesser occipital nerves and the dorsal occipital nerves.

The surgery generally takes around two or three hours and is performed with the patient asleep under general anesthesia. Patients are able to go home the same day, and full recovery is generally expected within one or two weeks.

In some cases, occipital release surgery only works temporarily, and the pain returns. Further surgery to cut the greater occipital nerves can be performed after about a year, however, this procedure is regarded as a last resort since it would result in permanent scalp numbness.

The Difference Between Occipital Neuralgia And Migraine

Migraines tend to have identifiable triggers, Dr. Costandi notes. They can be accompanied by visual disturbances and other symptoms that precede the headaches. Occipital neuralgia, on the other hand, does not typically have either of those characteristics.

Pain specialists can identify occipital neuralgia through one or more of these methods:

  • Patient history. If the pain starts in the neck and radiates up the head to the eyebrows, thats typical occipital neuralgia, Dr. Costandi says.
  • A basic exam. Doctors can sometimes reproduce the pain by pressing on occipital nerves at the base of the skull.
  • Nerve block. If the pain disappears after we numb the occipital nerve, then we can be confident that occipital neuralgia is causing the headache, Dr. Costandi says.
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    What Is Scalp Pain

    Scalp pain is a common symptom of , headaches, and skin conditions. It may result from trauma to the head region, including the brain, skull or scalp. It can occur in conditions that cause headaches or skin irritation, or in more generalized conditions, such as cancer.

    Trauma to the head is a common cause of scalp pain. It includes brain injury, skull fracture, or , all of which may occur immediately after the traumatic episode or up to several hours or days afterward. A brain from trauma may also result in scalp pain and may indicate bleeding or swelling inside the skull.

    Headaches can lead to scalp pain and to pain in any area of the face, neck or head. Several types of headaches may cause scalp pain, such as migraine, sinus headache, tension headache, and those caused by nerve involvement such as . Other conditions can result in pain, infection or irritation to the scalp, such as , lesions from , and basal cell carcinoma or other skin cancers.

    Scalp pain can indicate a serious condition. Seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, experience scalp pain with any of the following symptoms: sudden blindness in one or both eyes, or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment; blood or fluid draining from your nose, mouth or ears; uncontrolled jerky movements; numbness following injury to the head, neck or back; sensory changes ; seizure; or unequal size of pupils.

    What To Expect At Your Office Visit

    Headache Behind the Eyes

    Your provider will take a medical history and will examine your head, eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck, and nervous system.

    Your provider will ask many questions to learn about your headaches. Diagnosis is usually based on your history of symptoms.

    Tests may include:

    • Blood tests or a lumbar puncture if you may have an infection
    • Head CT scan or MRI if you have any danger signs or you have been having headaches for a while

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    Referred Tooth Pain To Your Head

    In addition to a toothache triggering a migraine, tooth decay or advanced gum disease can “refer” pain to the head.

    Referred pain means that you feel a painful sensation in a different area of your body than the body part actually causing the pain. Again, this is due to the many nerve connections that connect the teeth and other facial structures to the brain.

    It’s common for a person to go see their doctor for tension-type headaches or migraines when they really are experiencing a dental problem.