Headache on Top of Head? What's Causing it Might Surprise You.

June 3, 2018

Causes of top of the head headache

Headaches on Top of Head

Headaches occur in many different forms. Including pain on top of head or a feeling like a band is wrapped around the head. Others present with pain behind one of the eyes. Headaches can occur at the temples as well. What causes a headache that affects the very top of the head? Here are some possible causes of headache pain. At the end of our article, we’ll present a natural form of care that has been bringing hope to many headache patients.

#1 Tension Headaches

Tension-type headaches are typically associated with tension or stress. It builds up in the neck and leads to headaches. They often present with the sensation of a band being wrapped around the head. But they can also occur with pain on top of the head. In fact, one survey showed that about 1 in 5 responders experienced this type of headache presentation. Sinus headaches may also be associated with tension headaches. Cluster headaches may also be a type of tension headache.

This is the most common type of headache that feels like pain on top of your head. It is estimated that about 38% of people at least occasionally get tension headaches. Pain in the neck or between the shoulders is also a common symptom of a tension headache.

#2 Chronic Headaches

If you have 15 or more headache days per month your headaches would be considered chronic. Some people even experience daily headaches. About 4% of adults are dealing with this chronic ailment. About a quarter of those patients will experience a headache on the top of the head. Some people with fibromyalgia may also struggle with chronic headaches.

#3 Migraine Headaches

While migraines are a neurological condition and not a type of headache, a pulsating headache can occur during a migraine (and does occur about 85-90% of the time during an episode). Migraines affect 12% of the adult population (18% of women and 6% of men). While migraine pain more commonly occurs on the side of the head or behind the eye, patients can also experience top of the head pain.

#4 Idiopathic Pain

A study in Korea involving 115 patients who suffered idiopathic (no identifiable cause) head pain showed that 10% felt the stabbing pain on the top of their head. While this sort of sudden pain can be frightening, it didn’t seem to be related to any dangerous condition in the patients involved in the study. Migraine sufferers tend to have this type of pain more frequently.

#5 Cold-Stimulus Headache

A brain freeze or ice cream headache is the common name for this type of headache. A cold stimulus headache occurs when cold foods or beverages are consumed too quickly. While researchers still don’t fully understand this type of headache, it clearly is related to cold-stimuli. This type of headache presents less commonly on the top of the head, but it still occurs occasionally.

#6 Cervicogenic Headache

This type of headache overlaps many of the other types. It just means that the headache is related to a problem in the neck. Thus, a cervicogenic headache can be a migraine symptom, a tension headache, or part of a chronic headache issue. The headaches can present with pain in many different ways, including on top of the head. Other cervicogenic headache symptoms include TMJ, tinnitus, dizziness, vertigo, and other issues.

#7 Exertional Headache

Sometimes a headache will occur when a person exercises too hard. If a headache already exists but gets worse with exertion, this can actually be a sign of migraines. Exertional headaches can occur during cardio exercise, weight training, or even sex. This is frequently a throbbing pain at the top of the head.

#8 Sleep Deprivation Headache

A headache can begin when a person has not slept enough. In fact, lack of proper sleep is a common migraine trigger. So once again, it is important to discern if those headaches are really just a symptom of migraines if you experience them after a poor night of sleep.

#9 Post-Concussion Headaches

Sometimes after a traumatic head or neck injury, the injured person will experience the onset of headaches. This can happen following a concussion, whiplash injuries, and other similar forms of trauma. Once again, these headaches seem to be related to the neck as the symptoms of head and neck injuries often line up. Dizziness or vertigo are also frequently associated with this type of headache.

Common Headache Pain Relievers

The most common approach to headaches is over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers and muscle relaxants. Unfortunately, a negative side effect of many of these medications is actually more headaches. A rebound headache also called medication overuse headaches are caused by regular long-term use of medications to treat headaches including migraines. While this type of medical care may be necessary to obtain short-term relief is not an effective strategy in getting to the underlying cause or to provide you with a long-term solution.

Natural Relief For Headaches on Top of the Head

You may have noticed throughout our discussion how often the problem comes back to the neck. Why is this the case? Consider some of the complications that might occur if a misalignment exists in the upper neck (cervical spine):

  • Brainstem Pressure – Since the C1 (atlas) surrounds the area where the brainstem meets the spinal cord, even the slightest misalignment may put pressure on this vital and sensitive part of the central nervous system.
  • Intracranial Pressure – Patients with an upper neck misalignment who have been examined with an upright MRI have seen significant inhibition of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage and blood vessels. As a result, CSF may pool and cause increased intracranial pressure.
  • Reduced Blood Flow – The cervical spine helps to facilitate blood flow to the brain by means of the vertebral foramen (tiny loops of bone that provide safe passage for the vertebral arteries that provide blood flow to the head).

These are all factors that can affect headache or migraine occurrence. Therefore, if you are experiencing headaches, especially if you have neck pain before or during the episodes, we encourage you to get an examination from an upper cervical chiropractor. This safe and gentle subspecialty of chiropractic focuses on the top two bones of the spine. To learn more about this natural form of care and how it may be able to help you, contact a practitioner in your area today.

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Areato schedule a consultation today.


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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.