Head pressure can result from headaches or ear infections, but it can also signal a more severe condition, such as a concussion or tumor. It may occur with other symptoms like dizziness.
A number of conditions can cause a sensation of tightness, weight, or pressure in the head. These sensations can range in intensity from mild to severe.
Most conditions that result in head pressure aren’t cause for alarm. Common ones include tension headaches, migraine, conditions that affect the sinuses, and ear infections.
Abnormal or severe head pressure is sometimes a sign of a serious medical condition, such as a brain tumor or aneurysm. However, these problems are rare.
Read on to learn more about types of pressure and what they might mean.
Do you feel pressure all over your head? Is the pain restricted to your forehead, temples, or a single side? The location of your pain can help your doctor identify potential causes.
|concussion or head injury
|top of head
|front of head, forehead
|face, cheeks, or jaw
|eyes and eyebrows
|ears or temples
|back of head or neck
|concussion or head injury
Pressure, aches, and pain in the head have many potential causes. Tension headaches and migraine are among the most common.
How it feels: Pain from tension headaches is generally mild to moderate in severity. Some people describe it as an elastic band squeezing their head.
What it is: Also known as tension-type headaches (TTH), tension headaches are the
Sinus headaches and other sinus conditions
How it feels: A constant pressure behind your forehead, cheekbones, nose, jaw, or ears. It will also come along with other symptoms, such as nasal discharge.
What it is: Your sinuses are a series of connected cavities behind your forehead, eyes, cheeks, and nose. When the sinuses become inflamed, they produce excess mucus, which can lead to head pressure. This is also known as a sinus headache. True sinus headaches are rare; it’s easy to mistake a migraine for one.
How it feels: Dull but constant pressure in the temples, ears, jaw, or side of the head. Ear conditions can affect one or both sides of the head.
- ear barotrauma
- ear infections
- earwax blockage
- ruptured eardrum
- outer ear infection (swimmer’s ear)
How it feels: Migraine pain is usually described as pulsing or throbbing. It typically occurs on one side of the head, and it can be so intense that it’s disabling. A migraine attack is often accompanied by additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
What it is: Migraine is a
Causes: The causes of migraine aren’t well understood, although genetic and environmental factors appear to be involved.
What they feel like: Pressure, pulsing, or throbbing all over or in a specific area of the head. Some headaches are accompanied by eye pain.
Causes: Headaches are caused by a wide range of factors. Some are medical conditions, while other types are symptoms of another condition.
Concussions and other head injuries
How it feels: A concussion results from a head injury and can cause a sensation of mild pressure in your head or a headache. Related symptoms include confusion, nausea, and dizziness.
What it is: A concussion is a mild head injury. It occurs when the brain shakes, bounces, or twists inside the skull, which can affect brain activity and damage brain cells.
Causes: Concussions and other head injuries are caused by sudden impact to the head or whiplash. Falls, car accidents, and sports injuries are common.
How it feels: Pressure or heaviness in the head or neck. Brain tumors can cause severe headaches and are often accompanied by other symptoms, such as memory problems, vision problems, or difficulty walking.
What it is: A brain tumor occurs when cells grow and multiply to form an abnormal mass in the brain. Brain tumors are rare.
Causes: Brain tumors can be noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). They can originate in the brain (primary tumors) or grow from cancer cells that have traveled from elsewhere in the body (secondary tumors).
How it feels: Severe head pain that comes on suddenly. People who’ve had aneurysms rupture describe it as “the worst headache of their life.”
What it is: A brain aneurysm is a bulging or ballooning blood vessel. Excess pressure can cause the bulge to rupture and bleed into the brain.
A number of other conditions can cause head pressure. Some of these include:
Sometimes, head pressure occurs on its own, but it may also be accompanied by other symptoms.
Pressure in the head and ears
Pressure in the head and ears might be a sign of an ear infection, earwax blockage, or dental infection.
If you suspect an infection, make sure to discuss your symptoms with a doctor to determine what treatment is needed.
Pressure in the head and dizziness
Dizziness accompanied by head pressure can be a sign of a number of conditions, including:
- allergic reaction
- concussion or head injury
- heat exhaustion
- high blood pressure
- panic attack
Pressure in the head and neck
The stress in the nerves and muscles of the neck can cause pain in the head. Sometimes, pressure or pain appears in both the head and the neck. This can be caused by headaches, such as tension headaches or migraine. Other causes include whiplash, poor posture, muscle strain, and concussions.
Pressure in the head and eyes
Head pressure accompanied by eye pressure can be a sign of eyestrain, allergies, or sinus infections. Migraine and other headaches can also cause eye-related symptoms.
Some causes of head pressure and pain don’t require medical treatment. Home remedies and lifestyle changes may help to improve your symptoms.
Here are a few things to try if you experience chronic tension headaches:
- Reduce sources of stress.
- Make time for relaxing activities, such as taking a hot bath, reading, massage, or stretching.
- Improve your posture to avoid tensing your muscles.
- Get enough sleep.
- Treat sore muscles with ice or heat.
The treatment your doctor will recommend depends on the underlying cause of head pressure and pain.
When the source of your head pressure isn’t clear, or symptoms suggest a more serious condition, a doctor might order a CT scan or an MRI scan. Both of these diagnostic procedures produce a detailed image of your brain that your doctor will use to learn more about what is causing your pain.
When headaches occur on a regular basis, your doctor might prescribe medication to help prevent them. These include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, and other pain relievers. If your headaches are disrupting your daily life, your doctor will likely be able to help.
Lifestyle changes and alternative therapies are also effective in treating tension headaches. Alternative therapies primarily focus on relieving stress and tension. These include:
Can head pressure be related to anxiety?
Why does my head feel heavy without a headache?
There are many things that can cause head heaviness without headaches. Examples include fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, as well as stress.
Learn more: Why does my head feel heavy?
When should I worry about head pressure?
Speak with a doctor in the following cases:
- You consistently have to take pain medication for head pressure
- You experience pain more than two times per week.
- Your discomfort is long-term (chronic), severe, or unusual for you.
- Your headaches or pressure disrupt your day-to-day activities
If you don’t already have a primary care provider, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Depending on your condition, your doctor might refer you to a neurologist or ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT), also known as an otolaryngologist.
The most common causes of pressure and pain in the head are tension headaches and migraine. Both of these conditions respond well to treatments.
In rare cases, pressure in the head is a sign of a more serious condition. If the issue persists, you should see a doctor.