Headache on Top of Head: Causes and Treatment

headache on top of head

People experience headaches differently, where they strike, and how intense the pain is? Headache on top of the head means different things. Headache on top of the head may be worrying but in many cases, it is not the cause for concern. Muscles and nerves contribute to the headache. 

It is very important to identify the underlying cause of headaches on top of the head.

Causes of headache on the top of the head

There are several causes of headaches on the top of the head. Some of them are enlisted below:

Tension headaches

This is the common cause of headaches occurring on the top of the head. It causes a constant aching and you will feel like a brand has been tightened around your head. It also causes pain in the neck and near the back of your head. This pain is dull and much less severe than migraine. Although headaches are uncomfortable tension headaches let some people perform normal activities of life.


Migraines also cause a headache on the top of the head. But the main feature of migraines is that they usually travel to one side of the head or back of the head near the neck. Migraine is severe than a tension headache and causes throbbing pain. 


  1. Nausea
  2. Cold hands
  3. Auras
  4. Light and sound sensitivity

They are usually common on the left side of the head. 

Sleep deprivation headaches

These are usually common in everyone even if one don’t get headache typically. Insufficient and interrupted sleep is the main cause of this headache. This type of headache is dull but combined with a heaviness on the top of the head. 

Overuse headaches

Intake of too much medicine can cause overuse headache. This is also termed as rebound headache. Sometimes medication used to treat headache also cause a rebound headache. 

People who suffer from headaches frequently should avoid the overuse of OTC medication.

Cold-stimulus headaches

It is commonly known as “brain freezes”. It occurs quickly and on the top of the head. They are severe but lasts a few seconds only. 

Chronic headaches

These are very similar to tension headaches as they occur on the top of the head and is caused due to stress. It can also be provoked by loud noises or poor sleep. 

Secondary headaches

This means that headache is caused due to some other problems like fever, infection, head injury, high blood pressure. 

Cluster headaches

The “clusters” means the way they repeat, daily or sometimes for a week. They are very painful and occur on one side of the head behind the eyes or over the top of the head.

Occipital neuralgia

If the nerves moving from the spine to the scalp are compressed, irritated, or damaged, then it causes occipital neuralgia. It causes pain at the back of the head or on the top of the head.


  1. Dull aching
  2. Jolts of pain that feel like an electric shock
  3. Symptoms that increase by movement

Some rare causes of headaches on the top of the head

There is some rare cause of such headaches that occur on the top of the head. Although, these are rarely medical emergencies. 

Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS)

Sometimes, blood vessels in the brain constrict and start severe thunderclap headache near the top of the head. This condition is severe and further causes strokes and bleeding.


  1. Severe weakness
  2. Seizures
  3. Blur vision
  4. Strokes
  5. Bleeding in brain 

Hypertension headaches

This headache is caused when severe high blood pressure builds pressure in the cranium. During this condition, you may feel like your hair has been pulled tight into a ponytail near the top of your head. 


  1. Confusion
  2. Shortness of breath
  3. Blur vision

Which muscles cause a headache on the top of the head?

Headaches on the top of the head are caused due to few muscles.

Sub Occipital muscles:

The first is a group of muscles called sub-occipital muscles. These muscles are responsible for movement between the first and second vertebrae that are present in the neck and skull. These muscles become tense due to the following factors:

  1. Teeth grinding
  2. Eyestrain
  3. Poor posture

These factors trigger tension headaches or migraines. 

Splenius Cervicus and splenius Capitus muscles

These muscles running around the neck becomes too tight and cause a headache at the top of the head. These muscles can also cause pain in the neck and can cause a stiff neck. 


Pain relievers 

Pain relievers are the first-line defense against headaches. A commonly used pain reliever is acetaminophen. It effectively reduces the headache. But if the headache lasts for more time you can take extra-strength Tylenol. 

OTC medication

Occasional headaches can be treated by OTC medication. These include NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, etc. 


Headache on the top of the head can be treated by changing the diet. Caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee help to relieve pain. Some people use water and snacks may also help in this case.

Soundless sleep

Enough sleep, reduced stress, and a happier environment can prevent many headaches. 


If the headache is caused due to tense muscles, then your doctor will recommend a massage or chiropractor. 

Treatments of different headaches vary and the ways of treatment are as follows:

Tension headaches

If it is severe enough then pain relievers can be used for treatment. Hot shower, warming pad, regular exercise help to prevent and reduce tension headaches.


It involves preventive as well as immediate relief medication. Triptans may be prescribed that will constrict vessels and reduce pain. Moreover, beta-blockers, anti-depressants, and anti-seizure drugs are also used for treating migraines.

Occipital neuralgia

For the treatment of occipital neuralgia, different methods are used like physical therapy, massage, warm compresses, anti-inflammatory medication. Moreover, anti-seizure drugs are used for preventive purposes. 

Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome

They can be reduced without any medication or treatment. But it is thought that calcium channel blockers help to reduce headaches. 

Hypertension headaches

They occur in hypertensive crisis. Medication is provided to reduce blood pressure and hence reduce the risk of brain bleeding, stroke, or any other serious condition. It requires emergency treatment. Preventive measures should be taken to reduce its risk like a low sodium diet, regular exercise. 


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