Headache on Top of Head – the Complete Guide

By | October 13, 2021

According to recent estimates, around 5% of adults globally suffer from chronic headaches or headache disorders.

What causes a headache on top of head?

A headache on the top of your head usually indicates that you have a tension headache or a migraine though there could be other conditions that cause this type of headache.

Tension headaches

If you feel a constant dull pain on the top of your head, you might have a tension headache. The most common cause of headaches that occur on the top of the head is a tension headache.

The pain is usually mild and doesn’t throb like a migraine. It may also feel like neck pain and comes close to the back of the head and temples. Tension headaches are uncomfortable, but many people with them can go about their normal routine.

Tension headaches are usually caused by stress. It’s because when you experience stress, the muscles in your scalp, neck, or shoulders tighten. This is what causes the pain or pressure on top of your head.

You can also get a tension headache from sitting too long at your computer or after doing work that requires you to sit in the same position for too long. This is especially so if you have poor posture.

Migraine headache

You might have a migraine if you have throbbing pain on the top of your head. They are typically more painful than tension headaches. You might be suffering from a migraine if you are experiencing other symptoms as well, such as sweating or nausea.

Typically, the pain of a migraine is also felt in other areas of the head, and it can even travel to one side or the back of your neck. Migraines can affect people on either the left or right side of their head, but they’re most likely to be felt on the left side.

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Chronic headaches

There are different types of chronic headaches, which can include tension headaches and migraine headaches.

If you have at least 15 days per month for 3 months where you experience tension headaches, this would be considered chronic.1✅ REFERENCE
PMC: NBK562274
  Approximately 4% of the adult population deal with this chronic condition. It’s estimated that 1 out of every 4 people with this condition will have a headache at the top of their head.

Chronic migraines are defined by headache symptoms that occur for at least 3 months, where the person has had a headache for 15 or more days and they’ve had symptoms of migraine on 8 days or more.2✅  REFERENCE
PMC: NBK560787

The symptoms are dependent on the type of headache, but all types of chronic headaches can cause pain near the top of the head.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are a type of very painful headache that happens all of a sudden on one side of your head and can sometimes produce pain on the top of the head. If you are experiencing intense, recurring headaches at night, you may be dealing with cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are a rare type of headache affecting only 1 in 1,000 people.3✅ REFERENCE
PMC: NBK544241

A typical cluster headache cycle can last for weeks to months and be followed by remission periods that can last for years. Symptoms can include a dull eye ache, usually around one eye, as well as redness in the affected eye, profuse sweating, pale skin, and a drooping eyelid.

Idiopathic pain headaches

Idiopathic pain is the term used to describe chronic pain that lasts at least six months and occurs without any identifiable cause.

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A study of 115 patients with idiopathic pain found that 10% reported stabbing pain on the top of their heads. Patients with migraines often experience idiopathic pain.

Sinus headaches

Inflamed sinuses can lead to headaches on the top and sides of your head. Sinus headaches are characterized by symptoms like a stuffy nose, pain and pressure in the forehead or at the top of your head, and sudden onset of headache after bending over. Symptoms usually disappear once a person treats the underlying issue.

A sinus headache and a migraine share many symptoms in common and it is easy to misdiagnose one for the other. The main difference between a sinus headache and a migraine is that migraine sufferers are more likely to experience the following symptoms at the same time: nausea, sensitivity to light & sound, and increased sensitivity to hot or cold.

Sleep deprivation headaches

Sleep deprivation headaches are the result of insufficient or interrupted sleep. Usually, they will cause a dull ache in your forehead and sometimes pressure in the front of your head.

Tension-type headaches are often caused by a lack of sleep. This happens because the body produces less orexin, which is a chemical that helps regulate sleep cycles.4✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
PMC: NBK562274

Medication overuse headaches

You might want to reevaluate how many medications you take a day if you happen to have a lot of headaches in the morning. Some pharmaceuticals can lead to increased headaches after frequent use. This is especially common for people with persistent migraines.

Doctors may also diagnose patients with overuse headaches for those who have a diagnosis of a primary headache condition and experience at least 15 headaches per month.5✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE
DOI: 10.1136/practneurol-2018-002048

A Visual Guide To Headaches Infographic

Image Source – pharmaceutical-journal

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