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Pain on top of head

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

Have you experienced a headache on top of head? It is called vertex pain. It is an extreme pain wherein you feel like a weight sits on top of your skull.

There are different types of headache and so it is important to determine the type of headache so that correct treatment will be given to the patient. (1, 2)

Images of different types of head pain and the pressure points.photo

Image 1: Images of different types of head pain and the pressure points.
Picture Source: safesymptoms.com

Sternocleidomastoid muscle, one of the muscles responsible for pain on top of the head.photo

Image 2: Sternocleidomastoid muscle, one of the muscles responsible for pain on top of the head.
Photo Source: www.massagetoday.com

Inflammation of the sinus, one of the culprits for pain on top of the head.photo

Photo 3: Inflammation of the sinus, one of the culprits for pain on top of the head.
Picture Source: cdn2.bigcommerce.com

Types of pain on top of the head

Tension-type headache (TTH)

It is the most common type of pain on top of the head scalp. The patient complains of constant pain and pressure around the head, especially at the temples. The pain radiates at the back of the head down to the neck.

The pain can last for 30 minutes. Some people experienced pain on top of the head for a few days. Tension type headache is usually relieved using over the counter medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin.

Cluster headaches

This type of headache commonly affects the male population. It is a headache type that occurs in cycles/groups. It is characterized by severe pain on one side of the head. It comes with other symptoms such a nasal congestions, runny nose, and watery eyes.

The exact cause of cluster headache is unknown, but it is believed that it has something to do with the genetic makeup of a person. (1, 2, 3)

Sinus headache

Can sinus cause pain on top of head? The answer is yes. An infected sinus gets inflamed causing pain not only in the sinus region, but in the head part too. Sinus headache pain top of head is treated using antibiotics along with decongestants and antihistamines.

Rebound headache

It is a headache that does not seem to go away. The patient complains of throbbing headache on top head that does not go away despite using pain reliever. The patient will tend to overuse pain reliever in an attempt to make the pain go away.

It is use overuse of pain reliever that causes rebound headaches. Excessive painkiller use causes the brain to shift into an excited state, which further triggers headache attack. (4, 5)

Migraine headache

It is a neurological disorder that runs in the family. The patient complains of headache that can last for four hours to 72 hours. The patient describes the pain as one-sided, throbbing, and gets worst when moving. The patient may also experience nausea with or without vomiting and sensitivity to light and/or sound.

Mixed headaches

if you feel stabbing pain on top of head together with dull headache on top of the head, then you could be suffering from a mixed headache. As the name suggests, it is a combination of different types of headache, but commonly a combination of tension-type headache and migraine headache. (4, 5, 6)

Difference between tension-type headache and migraine headache?

Tension Type Headache Migraine Headache
Mild to moderate pain Debilitating pain
Is not worsened by normal movement The pain is aggravated by movement
Movement of the head and neck, anxiety, and physical exhaustion worsens the pain (6, 7) The pain is triggered by odor and/or hunger (6, 7)

Medical implications of different types of headaches

  1. Allergy – The patient is most likely suffering from allergy if he complains of generalized headache, watery eyes, and nasal congestion.
  2. Aneurysm – If you are suffering from cluster headache and frequent migraine, you should immediately consult your doctor because aneurysm mimics these symptoms. Aneurysm is a fatal condition that needs immediate medical attention.
  3. Arthritis headache – Do you suffer from pain in the back of your head? What causes pain in the back of your head? Why does the back of my head hurt when I bend over? It is caused by inflamed blood vessels of the head. It might have something to do with the bony changes in the structure of the neck.
  4. Eye strain – do you suffer from sharp pain on top of the head and pain on top right side of the head? If yes, then eyestrain could be the culprit. Some patients even complain of frontal bilateral pain. (8, 9, 10, 11)

Muscles responsible for pain on top of the head

Sternocleidomastoid Muscle – This muscle can create a broad range of problems such as head pain, ringing sensation in the ears, dizziness, and nausea.

Semispinalus capitus – It is a V-shaped muscle that begins in the cervical spine and connects to the back of the skull. If you bend your head forward for a long period of time, it causes muscle strain and triggers painful reaction. (4, 7, 12)

How to treat pain on top of the head?

  • Painkillers – A typical headache can be relieved using painkillers such as aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Strong painkillers require doctor’s prescription.
  • Relaxation techniques – If your headache is caused by psychological factors, then it could be difficult to treat using painkillers. Some relaxation techniques can help improve the condition of the patient. Meeting with a psychotherapist can help improve your overall health.
  • See a neurologist – If the pain on top of the head is severe and chronic in nature, then the best thing to do is to consult a neurologist or a headache specialist. The doctor will rule out the root cause of your headache and will come up with the best treatment. (2, 3, 6)

Natural Remedies for pain on top of the head

  1. Ginger – It is an elixir for headache. It gives instant headache relief. On top of that, ginger improves the digestive function and quells nausea secondary to migraine.
  2. Essential oil – The best essential oils for headache are peppermint and lavender. They are helpful in opening up clogged blood vessels that cause headache. They also regulate proper circulation of blood. Smell the soothing scent of these essential oils for immediate pain relief.
  3. Basil – It is a natural headache remedy known for its analgesic property. Use basil oil when massaging the head. It releases muscle tension thereby alleviating pain and discomfort on top of the head. (4, 7, 8)


  1. www.migrainetrust.org
  2. www.belmarrahealth.com
  3. www.severe-headache-expert.com
  4. www.headaches.org
  5. www.mhni.com
  6. www.natural-solutions-for-muscle-pain.com
  7. www.webmd.com
  8. www.reference.com
  9. www.newhealthadvisor.com
  10. https://brighamhealthhub.org
  11. https://chicagodefender.com
  12. www.miamiheadache.com

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