Sore Spot on Head – When to See a Doctor

Having a sore spot on your head can be an alarming symptom. If chronic, it can also hinder your ability to enjoy life.

A common culprit that comes to mind are tension headaches. According to the American Academy of Craniofacial Pain, tension headaches can cause the scalp to feel tender and sore.

This type of headache is caused by excessive head muscle straining or contracting. Another possibility is something called temporal arteritis.

People with this condition have blood vessels in the head that have become inflamed, leading to pain. Unfortunately, doctors and scientists aren’t too sure as to what causes it.

They believe it has to do with an abnormal immune response in the body. In some cases, having a score scalp can be linked to the overuse of antibiotics.

Below, we’ll dive deeper and talk about some of the potential reasons why you’re experiencing this symptom.

Occipital Neuralgia – A Cause of Sore Spot on Head?

There’s a condition called occipital neuralgia in which the nerves that travel from the spinal cord to the brain become inflamed.

This can lead to chronic pain and discomfort. People with this condition might also experience light sensitivity, pain on both sides of the pain, and pain behind the eyes.

Sore Spot on Head

People often confused occipital neuralgia with migraines, but the two are different. Before treating this condition, doctors must first figure out the cause of the nerve inflammation.

Many of times, they’ll prescribe you OTC pain medication. But as you can imagine, this isn’t the only cause of a sore spot on head. Let’s look at the next common cause- temporal arteritis.

Bottom Line: Occipital neuralgia happens whenever the nerves that connect the brain and spine become inflamed. This can lead to severe pressure and pain.

Temporal Arteritis

Temporal arteritis affects mainly the medium- and large-sized arteries in the head. It causes swelling, inflammation, and tenderness of the scalp.

The temporal arteries, which is where the inflammation usually happens, branch off of the carotid artery. In rarer cases, this condition can happen in other parts of the body.

What causes this condition? Unfortunately, doctors and scientists aren’t sure. They believe it has to do with an unregulated immune response.

It’s also possible to have a genetic disposition to this disorder. The condition is most common in people over the age of 50, and it almost always runs in families.

So if you have a tender scalp, but are under the age 50 (and don’t have a family history), then you might not have temporal arteritis after all. The only way to know for sure would be to get a checkup.

Bottom Line: Temporal arteritis is when the temporal arteries become inflamed. Scientists aren’t sure what causes it.


Fibromyalgia has also been known to cause painful spots on the head (specifically the back of the head).

In a nutshell, fibromyalgia causes widespread muscle pain and tenderness. So if you’ve got an area on your head that’s chronically hurting, fibromyalgia is a possibility.

However, it’s important to know that fibromyalgia affects the entire body, not just your head. So if the pain is localized to just your head, then this might not be the cause.

Bottom Line: Fibromyalgia can cause temple pressure, as well as pain throughout the rest of the body.

Recent Trauma

You’d be surprised by the number of people who hit their head and forget they did it! It doesn’t take much force to leave your head feeling sore.

A tender area on your head should go away after a few days if it was caused by trauma. If it doesn’t, then you need to speak with a doctor.

Also, if you play a sport that involves a lot of physical contact- hockey, football, martial arts, etc.- then this is a possible cause.

Finally, if you slept with your head against something hard then this could also cause that area of the head to feel sore the next day.

Bottom Line: If you’ve recently had an accident, or if you play high-impact sports (hockey, football, etc.) then this could be a cause.

When to See a Doctor

Now comes the most important question: when should you see a doctor regarding this symptom?

Generally speaking, if the pain is getting progressively worse, or if it’s not going away, schedule an appointment.

Also, if you notice that additional symptoms are accompanying it, like diarrhea or abdominal pain, this should also be a red alarm that something is wrong.

To manage a sore spot on head until then, take any OTC pain medication, drink plenty of water, avoid smoking and drinking, and most importantly, get plenty of rest.

Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

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