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Symptoms and Causes of a Headache on the Top of the Head

by Nadine
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Headache on top of head

Headaches are never enjoyable, and each type of headache can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Headaches on the top of the head can make you feel as if you’re wearing a heavyweight on the crown of your head.

It’s critical to figure out what kind of headache you’re having in order to obtain the correct treatment and relief.

What causes a throbbing headache at the crown of your head?

Headaches on the top of your head can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Headaches caused by tension

The most prevalent cause of headaches on the top of the head is tension headaches. They generate continual pressure or pain in the brain, which can feel like a tight band has been wrapped around it.

You may also get discomfort in your neck, as well as around the back of your head and temples. It’s a dull discomfort that doesn’t throb, and it’s usually considerably less intense than a migraine. Despite the fact that tension headaches are inconvenient, many persons with them are able to resume normal activities.


Migraines can also induce discomfort on the top of the head, though they can also appear on one side of the head or spread to the back of the neck. Migraines are characterized by intense throbbing pain, as well as symptoms such as:

light and sound sensitivity nausea chilly hands auras

Migraines can affect either the right or left side of the head, but the left side is the most prevalent.

Sleep deprivation headaches

Even if you don’t usually have headaches, sleep deprivation headaches can affect you. They’re usually accompanied by a dull discomfort and weight or pressure on the top of the head, and they’re caused by insufficient or irregular sleep.

Cold-stimulus headaches

Cold-stimulus headaches, sometimes known as “brain freezes,” strike suddenly and affect the top of the head. They will be severe and will usually last only a few seconds.

Chronic headaches

Chronic headaches can mimic tension headaches and generate discomfort near the top of the head in some circumstances. These, like tension headaches, can be brought on by stress. They can also be triggered by loud noises, lack of sleep, or other factors.

Occipital neuralgia

When the nerves that run from the spine to the scalp are injured, inflamed, or compressed, occipital neuralgia develops. They can produce pain in the back of the head, as well as a tight, band-like sensation around the top.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Electric shocks in the form of jolts of pain.
  • A dull ache that gets worse as you move.

Headaches on the top of the head have a few uncommon causes.

These are medical crises, despite their rarity.

Symptoms And Causes Of A Headache On The Top Of The Head

Syndrome of reversible cerebral vasoconstriction (RCVS)

This is an uncommon disorder in which the brain’s blood arteries constrict, resulting in a severe “thunderclap” headache near the top of the head.

Strokes or bleeding in the brain is possible side effects, as are extreme weakness, seizures, and blurred vision.

Headaches caused by hypertension

Headaches caused by significant high blood pressure build-up in the cranium are known as hypertension headaches. This headache has a unique feel to it as if you’ve tied your hair into a tight ponytail at the crown of your head.

During the headache, you may hear a “whooshing” sound; the pain is strong and frequently takes people to the emergency room. Confusion, loss of breath, and impaired vision are some of the other symptoms.

Which muscles are the ones to blame?

Only a few muscles are responsible for headaches on the top of the head, particularly tension headaches and migraines.

The first is a collection of muscles known as the suboccipital muscles, which control movement between the first and second cervical vertebrae and the skull. Grinding your teeth, eye strain, and poor posture can all cause these muscles to stiffen up. This can cause tension headaches and migraines on its own. These muscles can compress the occipital nerve and cause occipital neuralgia if they become overly strained.

If the splenius cervicis and splenius capitis muscles, which go up the neck, are overly tight, they might induce headache pain at the top of the head. In addition to headaches, the tension in these muscles can create stiff neck or neck pain.

Symptoms And Causes Of A Headache On The Top Of The Head

How are top-of-the-head headaches treated?

Over-the-counter pain medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol), which can successfully alleviate headache symptoms, will be the first line of defense against headaches. Try extra-strength Tylenol or Excedrin Migraine for persistent headaches or migraines. Both drugs contain acetaminophen, so don’t take them at the same time. If you take too much, you may experience an overdose.

Many types of headaches can be avoided by getting sufficient sleep, minimizing stress, and maintaining proper posture (even when sitting). If you work at a desk, consider investing in an ergonomic chair.

If your headaches are suspected to be caused by overly tense muscles, your doctor may prescribe that you visit a massage therapist or chiropractor on a regular basis.

If your headaches are frequent or severe, your doctor may prescribe medication or devise a treatment plan specifically for you. Treatments differ depending on the underlying cause:

If the tension headache is severe enough, prescription pain medications may be used.

Preventative and immediate-relief drugs may be used to treat migraines. Triptans are a type of medication that constricts blood vessels and relieves pain. Migraine prevention may include beta-blockers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications.

Physical therapy, massage, warm compresses, anti-inflammatory medicines, and muscle relaxants can all help with occipital neuralgia. Anti-seizure medications can be used to prevent seizures.

Although reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome may resolve without treatment, calcium channel blockers may assist to alleviate the condition’s headaches (though they do not reduce the risk of stroke).

Hypertension headaches, which often develop in a severe state known as hypertensive crisis, necessitate prompt emergency treatment to avoid brain hemorrhage, stroke, or other fatal complications. Medications will be given to lower blood pressure as rapidly as possible; this is usually done via an IV. Eat a low-sodium diet, exercise regularly, and take blood pressure medications as advised by your doctor to avoid hypertension headaches.

Let your doctor know if a treatment isn’t working for you or if you’re having trouble with the medication’s negative effects. For different headaches, you can attempt a variety of treatment approaches and drugs.

When should you see a doctor?

If you experience a severe, sudden headache, you should seek medical attention.

Other symptoms, such as nausea and vision problems, may accompany persistent headaches that do not respond to home treatment.

A doctor may give drugs or conduct tests to see whether there is an underlying reason that requires therapy.

Symptoms And Causes Of A Headache On The Top Of The Head


The top of the head might be affected by a headache for a variety of causes. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and they usually respond well to home therapy. A sudden, severe, or persistent headache, on the other hand, could indicate an underlying problem that necessitates medical attention.

Anyone with bothersome or persistent symptoms should seek medical attention. Someone should contact 911 or take the victim to the nearest medical room if they get a sudden, severe thunderclap headache.

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