If you’ve ever experienced pain in any part of your head, you know that it’s not much fun. A headache on top of the head can feel like throbbing pain or pressure in the crown.

The good news is that headaches on top of the head are rarely life-threatening, but they can still be disruptive and painful. Keep reading to learn more about these headaches and how you can keep them from happening.

Symptoms Of Headaches On Top Of The Head

While it’s often simple to tell if you’re experiencing a headache on top of the head, some of the related symptoms may surprise you, as they can reach into the neck and even affect your senses.

What are the symptoms of a headache on top of the head? The symptoms of a headache on top of the head include:

  • Pain, either constant or throbbing
  • Tightening sensation
  • Pressure
  • Neck pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Sensitivity to light or noise

Patients generally won’t experience all of these symptoms, but each will experience pain at the top of the head.

They may also feel pain in other parts of the head simultaneously, like the side of the head or the back of the head. Some patients even experience ice pick headaches as well.

Common Causes Of Head Pain

There are several common causes of headaches, including headaches with pain at the top of the head. You may experience one or more of these causes. In some cases, it can be challenging to identify the exact root cause of a headache.

The major causes of headaches at the top of the head are:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Teeth grinding
  • Overusing pain relievers
  • Caffeine 
  • Poor posture
  • Head injury
  • Blood vessel constriction

Sleep Deprivation

Losing sleep is a significant reason why people get headaches. In fact, one of the major symptoms of many sleep disorders is getting frequent headaches. Going to sleep or taking a nap can be an effective way to stop some headaches.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

One major cause of headaches, particularly morning headaches, is grinding the teeth (also called bruxism). Many people with bruxism grind their teeth as they sleep, which affects the muscles, bones, and joints of the jaw and skull and leads to headaches in adults.

Overusing Pain Relievers

Overusing over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers can lead to a type of headache called a rebound headache or medication overuse headache. They usually happen when patients frequently use medication to treat their recurrent headaches over a long period.


Too much caffeine can also lead to rebound headaches, particularly if you’re used to drinking caffeine every day, or you’re trying to reduce how much caffeine you drink. Having too much or too little caffeine is a common culprit of headaches on top of the head.

Poor Posture

Believe it or not, your posture might be causing your headaches, especially if you sit in front of a computer all day. Holding your head too far forward puts stress on the muscles and bones at the top of your neck, which leads to headaches.

Head Injury

Head injuries can lead to intermittent or chronic headaches, regardless of how severe the head injury was. Some evidence even suggests that minor head injuries may be more likely to cause chronic daily headaches.

Blood Vessel Constriction

Constricting blood vessels in the head and brain can also cause pain at the top of your head. In some cases, these headaches are caused by reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RCVS), a rare syndrome sometimes referred to as thunderclap headaches.

What causes your head to hurt at the top? Migraines, bruxism, head injuries, and certain medications all cause your head to hurt at the top.

6 Types Of Headache On Top Of The Head

There are several different types of headache that you can feel at the top of your head. Most of these headaches are not dangerous, simply painful. Some headaches, like tension, migraine, and cluster headaches, frequently happen because the patient has a headache disorder.

Here’s how to distinguish the type of headache you have.

Tension Headaches

Tension-type headaches are one of the most common types of headaches. They can happen for many reasons, including poor posture and spinal alignment, which can lead to muscle tension that travels up to the head.

Migraine Headaches

Migraines are severe headaches that feel like a throbbing pain on one side of the head (usually, but not always). They can happen with or without auras, visual or auditory disturbances that often precede migraine pain. Sufferers are often sensitive to light and loud sounds.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches usually feel like severe pain behind the eye and often occur along with nasal congestion and watery eyes. They occur frequently over the course of a few weeks or months, then stop.

Sinus Headaches

Most sinus headaches feel painful in the nasal area, cheeks, jaws, and teeth. However, occasionally patients with a sinus headache also feel pain at the top of the head.

Hypertension Headaches

Hypertension headaches happen when high blood pressure makes the pressure in and around your brain rise, which causes pain. These headaches can be a symptom of life-threatening high blood pressure, so seek medical care immediately if you have hypertension and a bad headache.

Occipital Neuralgia

The occipital nerves are nerves that run up from the spinal cord toward the top of the head. Occasionally these nerves can become inflamed, a painful condition called occipital neuralgia. It’s often described as either a piercing or a throbbing pain.

Treating A Headache On Top Of The Head

If you suffer from headaches at the top of your head, you don’t have to live with that pain. There are highly effective treatment options to help treat headache pain when it happens and to help stop headaches from developing in the first place.

Conventional Treatment

Conventional treatments for headaches on top of the head include over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen. It’s also popular to try non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, muscle relaxants, and triptans (Imitrex, Zomig, Relpax, and other similar drugs).

These drugs can be effective, but they also have many side effects, and some can even interact with other common medications like certain classes of antidepressants.

Other traditional treatments can include massage, a warm shower, and changing your posture.

Chiropractic Treatment

There’s a natural option for treating these headaches that doesn’t involve taking a bunch of drugs: chiropractic care.

Many headaches, including headaches on top of the head, are caused by poor posture and neck position, and chiropractic care helps bring your spine into alignment.

Problems with the cervical spine, located in your neck, are the root cause of many headaches.

The upper cervical spine — the top two vertebrae — along with the occipital bone, the bone at the base of the skull, is strongly linked to head pain.

Chiropractic adjustments are one of the best ways to treat headaches, particularly headaches that keep recurring. They have almost no side effects (aside from feeling great after your adjustment), and you don’t have to worry about any drug interactions, either.

Chiropractic neck adjustments are highly effective at treating headaches. They bring your upper cervical spine into alignment, which keeps your neck and head bones, nerves, and muscles in the correct position, eliminating a major cause of headaches.

Trigger Elimination

Some headaches are caused by specific triggers, like hormones, foods, or alcohol. Headache triggers are unique to each person, so it may take a little trial and error to find yours.

The best ways to eliminate the most common headache triggers are:

  • Keep caffeine consumption consistent: Drinking much more or less caffeine than you’re used to is an easy way to get a headache. Try to keep your caffeine intake relatively constant, and don’t quit caffeine cold turkey.
  • Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep is one of the biggest headache triggers. Make sure you get quality sleep every night for your head and for your overall health.
  • Reduce stress: Stress can be a major headache trigger. Find stress relief tactics that work for you. Many people find that exercise, yoga, meditation, and spending time with loved ones really help take down stress levels a few notches.
  • Reduce alcohol intake: Drinking a lot of alcohol can cause headaches, and not just when you’re hungover. If you tend to get headaches after drinking, consider reducing how much you drink or eliminating alcohol altogether.

How do you get rid of a headache on the top of your head? You get rid of a headache on the top of your head immediately by taking medication or acupuncture, but chiropractic treatment can often correct the root cause of the headache.

What is the best way to treat a headache on top of your head? One of best ways to treat a recurring headache on top of your head is to with chiropractic care to align your neck, regardless of your headache cause. Your chiropractor should particularly focus on the uppermost vertebrae.

When To See A Doctor

Occasionally headaches on top of the head can be caused by very dangerous medical conditions like an aneurysm or tumors that require immediate medical treatment, but it’s very rare. If you have an excruciatingly painful headache, head to the emergency room for medical advice.

You should also get immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A severe headache that comes on quickly
  • An intense headache that happens along with a stiff neck
  • You lose consciousness
  • You have trouble seeing or lose sight in one or both eyes
  • Head trauma that causes your headache

See a doctor if you experience nausea, vomiting, and/or dizziness along with your headache or if it doesn’t go away after taking medication or trying other treatments.

What does it mean when you have pressure at the top of your head? It means you have a tension headache if you have pressure at the top of your head in most cases. If the pressure is severe or you’re worried about other symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.

Headache Help In Denver, CO

If you’re tired of dealing with chronic headaches and headache pain or reaching for the pill bottle every time you have a headache, I can help. At Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we pride ourselves in making both new and existing patients feel supremely comfortable and welcome.

Click here to schedule an appointment so we can talk about addressing your unique headache symptoms through a personalized treatment plan. I look forward to working with you and helping you say goodbye to your headaches.

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