headache on top of head

A headache on top of the head, often characterized as a dull pain or a sensation of pressure akin to a weight resting on the crown, can be a source of significant discomfort. Referred to medically as a vertex headache, the intensity of this condition can vary widely, from a minor nuisance to an acute ailment that disrupts one’s daily routine and impairs one’s quality of life. While stress or tension is frequently at the root of such pain, it’s crucial to acknowledge that this type of headache may also signal more grave health issues.

Throughout this discussion, we will meticulously examine the myriad of elements that may contribute to a headache on top of the head. We will navigate various potential catalysts, from everyday lifestyle factors to more complex medical diagnoses. As we embark on this exploration, we aim to shed light on the causes of this particular form of head pressure and pain, offering enlightenment incrementally—holding back just enough to keep you engaged and eager to uncover further details about the origins of your head headaches and the strategies for managing them.

Causes of Headache on Top of Head

severe pain

Enduring a tension headache on top of the head is a common yet potentially serious condition, with causes ranging from minor to critical. Understanding the root causes is crucial for effective treatment and relieving pain. Such headaches should not be ignored, as they can indicate various health issues, from the benign to the medically significant.

Causes of Headache on Top of the Head:

  • Tension Headaches: These headaches are frequently characterized by a sensation akin to a tight band encircling the top of the head. As the most prevalent form of headache, the discomfort in this region is typically a result of muscle contractions, which may stem from stress or suboptimal posture.
  • Secondary Headaches: Pain at the top of your head can sometimes be indicative of more serious secondary headache disorders, such as brain tumors, aneurysms, or reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome. These conditions are serious and necessitate prompt medical intervention.
  • Sinus Infections: While not as usual, sinus-related headaches due to inflammation and blockage can manifest as pain at the top of the head.
  • Medication Overuse: Habitual reliance on pain medication can precipitate rebound headaches, experienced as a continuous, dull ache atop the head.
  • Sleep Disorders: Insufficient or disrupted sleep patterns can be precursors to recurrent headaches, often presenting as a persistent, dull discomfort at the top of the head.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Poor posture, not getting enough sleep, or dehydration can all contribute to headaches located at the top of the head.

Types of headache disorders that affect the top of your head

Headache disorders that manifest at the top of the head pose a considerable health challenge, with frequent headaches with the potential to disrupt daily activities and diminish overall well-being. The variability in their occurrence, severity, and accompanying symptoms underscores the importance of precise diagnosis and targeted treatment strategies. Gaining insight into the specific nature of headache disorders that concentrate on the crown is imperative. It is the initial stride in lessening their effects and enhancing the life quality of those affected.

Types of Headache Disorders Affecting the Top of the Head:

  • Tension-Type Headaches: These are the most prevalent headache disorders, often presenting as a dull, aching sensation across the top of the head, resembling a tight band.
  • Cluster Headaches: Known for their excruciating pain, cluster headaches can cause intense pressure at the top of the head. These are rare but severe and occur in groups or cycles.
  • Migraine Headaches: Migraines are notorious for their potential to target the top of the head, where they unleash a pulsating or throbbing discomfort. This pain is frequently in the company of nausea and a heightened sensitivity to both light and sound, adding to the sufferer’s distress.
  • Occipital Neuralgia: This condition pertains to the occipital nerves and is known for causing acute, stabbing sensations at the top of the head. These pains can be provoked by neck movements or a simple touch to the scalp, reflecting the sensitivity of the affected nerves.
  • Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome (RCVS): This infrequent but serious disorder is characterized by a sudden, intense headache—often termed a ‘thunderclap headache’—at the top of the head. It arises from the transient narrowing of blood vessels, leading to a dramatic onset of pain.
  • Hypertension Headaches: Elevated blood pressure can occasionally present through headaches, especially at the top of the head. These headaches tend to be persistent, reflecting the chronic nature of hypertension.
  • Medication Overuse Headaches: The excessive use of pain-relief drugs can result in rebound headaches. Sufferers may report relentless pressure at the top of the head, a direct consequence of medication overuse.

Other symptoms associated with headache

throbbing pain

Headaches are rarely standalone ailments; they often arrive as part of a broader constellation of symptoms that can provide clues to their underlying causes. Recognizing these accompanying signs and symptoms is not just crucial for diagnosis but also for tailoring an effective treatment strategy.

Let’s delve into the array of other symptoms frequently associated with headaches, shedding light on their underlying cause, potential implications, and the interconnected nature of our bodily systems.

Other Symptoms Associated with Headaches:

  • Visual Disturbances: Headaches, especially migraines, can usher in or coincide with visual anomalies like blurry vision, flashes of light, or even brief vision loss, adding complexity to the headache experience.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: These distressing symptoms are frequently linked with migraines, exacerbating the sufferer’s discomfort during an attack.
  • Sensitivity to Light and Sound: A common complaint among those with headaches is an increased sensitivity to light and sound, prompting many to seek solace in the calm of darkened, quiet spaces.
  • Dizziness: Accompanying some headaches is a disorienting sensation of dizziness or imbalance, particularly noted in migraines or headaches tied to vestibular conditions.
  • Neck Pain and Stiffness: Headaches, such as tension-type or those stemming from cervical spine issues, may also involve neck discomfort and a restricted range of neck motion.
  • Nasal Congestion: Accompanying sinus headaches are symptoms like nasal blockage, facial pressure, and a runny nose, indicative of inflammation within the sinus cavities.
  • Fatigue: Chronic headache sufferers may not readily notice the pervasive fatigue that often accompanies their condition, marked by a relentless weariness or energy deficit.
  • Irritability and Concentration Difficulties: The persistent sharp pain of headaches can alter one’s mood and hinder cognitive abilities, making focusing and completing tasks a formidable challenge.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Certain headaches that strike at night or in the early morning can interrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or non-restorative sleep.
  • Muscle Aches: Occasionally, headaches may be part of a broader symptomatology that includes muscle tension and soreness in areas like the shoulders or back.
  • Aura: A unique intro to migraines for some individuals is the ‘aura,’ a phrase that may encompass visual distortions, tingling sensations, or speech difficulties.

How to treat headache disorders

Treating headache disorders is a multifaceted approach that requires a thorough understanding of the type, frequency, and severity of the headaches, as well as the associated symptoms. Effective pain management also often combines immediate relief strategies with long-term preventative measures.

By exploring the various treatment options available, individuals suffering from headache disorders can find significant relief, and improve their quality of life.

Treating Headache Disorders:

  • Accurate Diagnosis: Securing a precise diagnosis is paramount in the battle against headache disorders. This often begins with a thorough consultation with a healthcare provider to discuss the headache’s features, potential triggers, and accompanying symptoms.
  • Medication Management: Tailoring treatment to the specific type of headache is essential. Options span from readily available over-the-counter pain relievers to prescription medications, each selected to target pain relief and reduce inflammation effectively.
  • Preventative Medications: For individuals who endure the recurring torment of chronic headaches, including migraines or cluster headaches, preventative medications can be a game-changer, potentially reducing the regularity of these painful episodes.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Embracing a healthier lifestyle can have a profound impact on headache management. Regular physical activity, staying hydrated, ensuring sufficient rest, managing stress, and making informed dietary choices are all pivotal steps that can help lessen both the frequency and severity of headaches.
  • Physical Therapy: In cases where headaches are induced by tension or musculoskeletal issues, physical therapy can offer relief through specialized exercises and hands-on treatment strategies.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Employing methods like deep breathing exercises, meditation, and biofeedback can aid in managing the stress and muscle tension that often precipitate headaches.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT has shown efficacy in altering behaviors related to pain and in mitigating the psychological distress that often accompanies chronic headache conditions.
  • Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture, massage therapy, and certain supplements have shown promise in treating some headache disorders.
  • Regular Medical Follow-Up: Ongoing communication with a healthcare provider is crucial for monitoring the effectiveness of treatment and making necessary adjustments.
  • Education and Support: Understanding the nature of headache disorders and having access to support groups or counseling can empower patients to manage their condition more effectively.


Tips to prevent headaches

Preventing headaches is often more effective than treating them after they’ve begun. By identifying and managing the triggers and lifestyle factors that contribute to headaches, individuals can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of severe headaches. Here are some proactive tips to prevent the onset of headache disorders, ensuring that these tips and lifestyle changes are integrated into daily routines for the best possible outcomes.

Tips to Prevent Headaches:

  • Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule: Consistent sleep patterns can help prevent headaches. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night and try to go to bed and wake up at the same times daily.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can trigger headaches, so it’s important to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Eat Balanced Meals: Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, which might trigger headaches. Regular, nutritious meals are essential.
  • Exercise Regularly: Physical activity releases endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. Exercise can also help to reduce stress, a common headache trigger.
  • Manage Stress: Techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises can lower stress levels and reduce the likelihood of stress-induced headaches.
  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both substances can contribute to headaches when consumed in excess.
  • Avoid Known Triggers: If certain foods or odors have triggered headaches in the past, do your best to avoid them.
  • Correct Posture: Poor posture can contribute to muscle tension and headache pain, especially for those who sit for long periods. Maintain a posture that supports your back and neck.
  • Take Breaks from Screens: Prolonged use of computers and smartphones can strain your eyes and trigger headaches. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
  • Seek Regular Eye Exams: Vision problems can lead to eye strain and headaches. Ensure your prescription is current if you wear glasses or contact lenses.
  • Use Relaxation Techniques: Regular practice of relaxation techniques can help prevent the muscle tension that contributes to tension-type headaches.
  • Monitor Headache Patterns: Keep a headache diary to identify patterns or triggers. This can help you make specific lifestyle adjustments to prevent them.

When to seek medical attention

While most headaches do not indicate a serious medical condition, there are certain instances when a headache could be a sign of something more severe. Knowing when to seek immediate medical attention for a headache is crucial. It can differ between a simple over-the-counter remedy and needing urgent medical care. Let’s explore the red flags that signal the need to consult a healthcare professional about a severe or persistent headache first.

When to Seek Medical Attention:

  • Sudden Onset: A headache that comes on suddenly and is severe in intensity, often described as a “thunderclap” headache, can be a sign of a serious condition, such as a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  • Progressive Pain: A headache that worsens over days or weeks can indicate a mass effect from a tumor or an abscess.
  • Change in Pattern: If you notice a significant shift in your headache patterns, particularly if you’re someone who regularly experiences them, it’s time to consult a healthcare professional.
  • Neurological Symptoms: Should your headaches be accompanied by worrying symptoms like confusion, seizures, blurred or double vision, muscle weakness, or numbness, seeking immediate medical advice is critical.
  • After Head Injury: Any new headaches that emerge post-head injury, especially if they intensify, could be indicative of a concussion or more serious internal issues, necessitating prompt medical evaluation.
  • Associated Conditions: Headaches that present alongside symptoms such as high fever, neck stiffness, rashes, or following a recent respiratory infection could signal serious conditions like meningitis or encephalitis and require urgent medical care.
  • Exertion Headaches: Headaches brought on by exertion, coughing, bending, or sexual activity can be due to an underlying health issue.
  • Age Factor: New onset of headaches, particularly in individuals over 50, can be a sign of temporal arteritis or other systemic illnesses.
  • Pregnancy: Headaches during pregnancy, especially when associated with visual changes, can be a sign of preeclampsia and require immediate medical care.
  • Lack of Response to Medication: If your headache responds to over-the-counter medications or uses them more than two days a week, you should seek medical advice.
  • Impact on Daily Life: When headaches are severe enough to disrupt work, sleep, or daily activities, or if they cause you to wake from sleep, they should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.


In conclusion, experiencing a headache on top of the head is a common issue many people face. While often it’s not a cause for alarm and common symptoms can be attributed to manageable conditions like tension headaches or migraines, it’s important to stay vigilant. If unusual or severe symptoms accompany your headache on top of the head, or if it represents a significant change from your normal headache pattern, don’t hesitate to seek a medical professional for advice. Remember, your health is paramount, and understanding when to get help can make all the difference. Keep an eye on your symptoms, maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent common headaches, and consult with healthcare professionals when in doubt to ensure that you are taking the right steps towards your well-being.


What to know about headaches on top of the head


Headache on Top of Head: Causes and When to See a Doctor


Why You Get Headaches on Top of Your Head — And How to Treat Them


Causes of Headache on Top of Head


Occipital Neuralgia


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