What It Means To Have a Headache On Top of the Head

headache on top of the head

Headache on top of the head? Besides being a common health complaint, headaches can be quite complex to figure out. This is because there are many types of headaches.

One example is the headache on top of the head. Many people who experience it note that they feel excruciating pain and pressure on the topmost portion of their heads. Some also experience additional symptoms such as sensory sensitivity. 

So what causes this? Is it something you should worry about? Does it require emergency medical assistance? Learn what it means to have a headache on top of your head in our blog post below.

Possible Explanations Behind a Headache On Top Of The Head

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all explanation behind a recurring headache on top of the head. That’s why it pays to know why it occurs in the first place. Here are the most likely reasons for the torturous pain you feel on top of your head. 


Migraine is a complex neurological problem that causes many symptoms, including headaches. Many Americans complain about it every year because each episode has a debilitating effect on the body. You can quickly distinguish it from the rest of the primary headaches because it usually causes throbbing pain on one side of the head. Additionally, it triggers a plethora of additional problems ranging from tunnel vision to unexplainable fatigue and lethargy. We recommend visiting an upper cervical specialist to evaluate a common underlying cause of migraines.

Cluster headache

Did you know that about 1 out of 10 American adults experiences cluster headaches each year? It’s a widespread problem that primarily affects working professionals in their 20s to 40s. Some studies theorize that this type of headache originates from sudden changes in the trigeminal nerve and the cranial and facial blood vessels. It causes clusters or groups of headaches that can last from a few days to a couple of months. 

Tension headache

Excessive muscle contraction in the head often leads to a tension headache. Sometimes, the painful sensation only affects the top most portion of the head. It can also cause discomfort on the neck or shoulder blades. Patients who experience tension headaches note that their pain feels dull and only lasts for more than six hours. 

Brain freeze

An ice-cream headache or brain freeze causes quick bouts of pain on top of the head. It happens because of the rapid constriction and dilation of the capillaries while you eat cold food and breathe in warm air. This type of headache only lasts for a few seconds. 

Lack of sleep

Sleep deprivation often leads to a plethora of health problems. One example of a symptom that it triggers or aggravates is a headache on top of the head. It appears that sleep deprivation decreases your body’s pain threshold, making you more vulnerable to headaches and migraine attacks. 

headache on top of the head

Occipital neuralgia

Have you ever experienced a piercing or electric shock-like head, neck, and ear pain during a headache episode? Chances are, you have occipital neuralgia, a condition that develops when you have damaged nerves on your scalp due to compression or pinching. The current estimates suggest that about 3 out of 100,000 patients in the US develop this nerve pinching problem. 

Physical overexertion

Intense physical activities can also lead to the onset of headaches on the topmost part of your head. Doctors and researchers refer to it as exercise headaches. Quite possibly, this occurs because of the sudden influx of blood in the brain because of the increased movement. 

Secondary headache

Besides the factors we listed above, there are other potential reasons why you experience pain and pressure on the top of your head. Doctors note that these could develop if you have pre-existing health problems such as intracranial hypertension, brain tumor, stroke, and reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS). 

If you think your headaches happen because of another possibly detrimental health problem, we strongly recommend consulting your physician.

If you're headache on top of the head is a migraine, cluster headache, tension headache, or occipital neuralgia it may have the same underlying cause. All of these types of headaches that can present as a headache on top of the head have been linked to upper neck misalignments.

Upper Neck Misalignments Leading to a Headache on Top of the Head

A persistent headache on top of the head can be a source of frustration and disability. It can also trigger anxiety, especially if your symptoms seem to get worse over time. 

There are two types of people those who just want to take a pill to get rid of a headache and those who want to investigate the underlying cause. But taking these types of pain relievers over time can cause a variety of side effects including organ damage.

Upper neck misalignments have been demonstrated to be an underlying cause a variety of different headaches including those with the symptom of a headache on top of the head.

The research related to upper cervical chiropractic and headaches suggests that this form of chiropractic care may have benefits for patients suffering from various types of headaches. Here are some key studies to consider:

  1. Improvement in Headaches: Several studies and case reports have shown improvements in headache symptoms following upper cervical chiropractic care. For example, a case series illustrated an integrated model of care for migraine that combined standard neurological care with chiropractic treatment, showing a nearly immediate positive response to initial care in headache intensity. Another study demonstrated that upper cervical chiropractic care was associated with a significant reduction in cervicogenic headache frequency, intensity, and duration.
  2. NUCCA and Headaches: The National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research Association (NUCCRA) and the Upper Cervical Research Foundation have conducted extensive research related to spinal corrections of the upper neck region and its effects, showing benefits for headache sufferers due to the connection with the brain and upper cervical spine.
  3. Symptomatic Reactions and Clinical Outcomes: A prospective, multicenter, cohort study found that upper cervical chiropractic care was associated with significantly improved outcomes for neck pain, disability, and headache. Although some patients experienced intense symptomatic reactions, the benefits of upper cervical chiropractic care may outweigh the risks.

In summary, the research suggests that upper cervical chiropractic care, may offer benefits for patients suffering from various types of headaches. However, it's important to consult with an upper cervical specialist if you are suffering with a headache on top of the head to determine the most appropriate approach for individual cases.

During your consultation, an upper cervical chiropractic practitioner checks for misalignments in your atlas and axis bones. Essentially, these two topmost bones support the head and encase the brainstem. When they shift from their position even by a tiny fraction, you become susceptible to developing problems like headaches.

Upper neck misalignments impedes the natural flow of information to and from your nervous system. This often results in pain and other unpleasant symptoms like a headache on top of the head.

Thankfully, upper cervical care aims to restore balance in your head and neck alignment. The careful and precise adjustments allow the bones to return to their original alignment and restore normal brain signal transmission. 

Want to learn more about a holistic way to resolve and prevent a headache on top of the head? We recommend talking to a nearby upper cervical specialist to learn more about your C1 and C2 bones today!

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

Find an Upper Cervical Specialist In Your Area

to 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.