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, 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.

Do you feel pressure all over your head? Is your head pressure restricted to your forehead, temples, or a single side? The location of your pain can help your doctor identify potential causes.

LocationPossible causes
entire head• concussion or head injury
• tension headache
top of head• tension headache
front of head and/or forehead• sinus headache
• tension headache
face, cheeks, or jaw• sinus headache
• tension headache
• dental problem
eyes and eyebrows• sinus headache
ears or temples• ear condition
• dental problem
• sinus headache
• tension headache
one side• ear condition
• dental problem
• migraine
back of head or neck• concussion or head injury
• dental problem
• tension headache

Pressure in the head has many potential causes. Tension headaches and sinus headaches are among the most common.

Tension headaches

What it feels like: 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 most common type of headache. They affect an estimated 42 percent of the global population. However, their causes aren’t well-understood.

Causes:

Sinus headaches and other sinus conditions

What it feels like: A constant pressure behind your forehead, cheekbones, nose, jaw, or ears. You might experience other symptoms, such as a stuffy nose.

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.

Causes:

Ear conditions

What it feels like: 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.

What it is: Ear infections and earwax blockages are common ear conditions that can cause head pressure with ear pain.

Causes:

Migraines

What it feels like: 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. Migraines are often accompanied by additional symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

What it is: Migraines are a common type of headache. They first appear in adolescence or early adulthood, and tend to reoccur. Migraines often include warning signs and progress through distinct stages.

Causes: The causes of migraines aren’t well-understood, although genetic and environmental factors appear to be involved.

Other headaches

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.

What they are: Most people experience a headache at some point in their lives. There are hundreds of types of headaches, including cluster, caffeine, and rebound headaches.

Causes: Headaches are caused by a wide range of factors. Some are a medical condition, while others are a symptom of another condition.

Concussions and other head injuries

What it feels like: 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.

Brain tumor

What it feels like: 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 travelled from elsewhere in the body (secondary tumors).

Brain aneurysm

What it feels like: Severe head pain that comes on suddenly. People who’ve had aneurysms 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.

Causes: The causes of brain aneurysms aren’t well-understood. Risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking cigarettes, and age.

Other conditions

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 head and ears

Pressure in the head and ears might be a sign of an ear infection, earwax blockage, or dental infection.

Pressure in head and dizziness

Dizziness accompanied by head pressure can be a sign of a number of conditions, including:

Pressure in head and anxiety

Tension headaches have been linked to anxiety. If you’re experiencing anxiety or stress accompanied by pressure in the head, you might be having a tension headache.

Pressure in head and neck

The nerves and muscles in 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 migraines. Other causes include whiplash, muscle strain, and concussions.

Pressure in head and eyes

Head pressure accompanied by eye pressure can be a sign of eye strain, allergies, or sinus infections. Migraines and other headaches can also cause eye-related symptoms.

Some causes of head pressure don’t require medical treatment. Home remedies and lifestyle changes may help to improve your symptoms.

Tension headaches in particular have been linked to stress, poor sleep, and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Women are more likely to experience tension headaches during menstruation.

Here are a few things to try if you suffer from chronic tension headaches:

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as aspirin, naproxen (Aleve), and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), can also help.

You should see a doctor if you consistently have to take pain medication for head pressure more than two times per week. Make an appointment with your doctor if your head pressure is long term (chronic), severe, or unusual for you. Headaches that disrupt your day-to-day activities warrant medical treatment.

Seeking treatment for an underlying condition, such as sinusitis or an ear infection, can also help relieve head pressure. Depending on your condition, your doctor might refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

When the source of your head pressure isn’t clear or symptoms suggest a more serious condition, the 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 head pressure.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of head pressure.

Tension headaches are treated with a combination of OTC and prescription medications.

Some medications treat tension headache pain when it occurs. These include OTC pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and combination drugs, which combine two or more pain medications with either caffeine or a drug to help you relax.

When tension headaches occur on a regular basis, your doctor might prescribe medication to help prevent them. These include antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and muscle relaxants.

Lifestyle changes, home remedies, and alternative therapies are also effective in treating tension headaches. Alternative therapies focus on relieving stress and tension. These include:

The most common causes of pressure in the head are tension headaches and sinus headaches. 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 your doctor.