Feeling pressure in your temples? You’re not alone. Pressure in your temples can result from tense muscles caused by:

  • stress
  • straining your eyes
  • clenching your teeth

It’s also a common symptom of a tension headache, which is the most common type of headache. Sometimes, pressure in your temples may be a sign of a more serious problem.

Learn more about what could be causing your temple pressure and when you should see a doctor.

The following are some possible causes of pressure in your temples.

Tension headache

A tension headache can cause mild to moderate pain and feel like you have a tight band around your head. The dull aching head pain may feel like it spreads to or from your neck and shoulders. Though the cause isn’t well understood, stress is a common trigger.

Episodic tension-type headaches usually only last a few hours, but can persist for a few days. They’re considered chronic if they occur for more than 15 days per month.

Migraine

Migraine headaches range from moderate to severe and cause throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head. Common symptoms are:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to light, sound, and smells

There are several known triggers for migraines, including:

  • lack of sleep
  • stress
  • changes in the weather
  • red wine
  • physical exertion, which may also worsen symptoms

Cervicogenic headache

A cervicogenic headache is head pain that comes from a problem in your cervical spine, which includes your neck and the base of your skull. This can include injuries or degenerative conditions, such as osteoarthritis. A bulging disc is the most common cause.

This type of headache is often mistaken for a migraine because the symptoms are similar. Along with migraine symptoms such as nausea and sensitivity to light, you may also experience:

  • dizziness
  • limited range of motion in your neck
  • pain in your neck, shoulders, or arm

Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJ)

Temporomandibular joint disorders, commonly known as TMJ, are conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the joint and muscles responsible for jaw movement. TMJ affects more than 10 million Americans. Occasional jaw pain isn’t serious and is usually temporary, but some people develop long-term problems.

Symptoms of TMJ include:

  • pain and pressure in your temples
  • radiating pain in any of the muscles involved in chewing, including your face, jaw, or neck
  • jaw stiffness or painful clicking or popping
  • change in the way your teeth fit together

Sinus problems

A sinus infection, allergies, and other problems affecting your sinuses can cause pressure in your temples. You may also feel pressure around your forehead, eyes, and cheeks, and pain in your upper teeth.

A sinus infection usually also causes you to feel unwell and is often accompanied by fever, fatigue, and a runny nose. Leaning forward can worsen pain and pressure.

Ear conditions

Problems with your ears, such as earwax buildup or ear infections, can cause pressure in temples and other parts of your head. Your ears may also feel blocked. Middle ear problems can also cause dizziness. These conditions usually affect one side of your head, but can affect both.

Meningitis

Meningitis is a swelling of the protective membranes that cover your brain and spinal cord. Though cancer, trauma, and certain drugs can cause meningitis, the most common causes are a bacterial or viral infection. Symptoms of meningitis vary depending on the cause, but common ones of all types include:

  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • sudden fever
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • irritability
  • confusion

Viral meningitis usually improves within 7 to 10 days without treatment. Bacterial meningitis can be fatal and needs to be treated with antibiotics right away.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI)

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when you hit your head or something causes a severe jolt or shaking of your head, such as fall, car accident, or contact with an object. These injuries can range from mild to serious and may or may not result in loss of consciousness. A concussion, even a mild one, is considered a TBI.

Approximately 85 percent of headaches caused by TBI are tension-type. The pain is usually a dull aching and pressure that can be felt in the temples, across the forehead, the back of the head and neck, or all over the head. Other symptoms may include dizziness, sleepiness, and confusion.

Tumor

Rarely, pressure in temples is can be caused by a brain tumor. A brain tumor is a growth of abnormal cells in the brain. Brain tumors can be cancerous or noncancerous and several types exist.

A feeling of pressure is a common symptom of a brain tumor that can worsen as the tumor grows. Other symptoms depend on the location and size of the tumor and may include:

  • headaches that become more frequent and severe
  • vision problems
  • unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • balance or coordination problems
  • speech difficulties
  • personality changes or unusual behavior
  • seizures

If your pressure in temples is accompanied by other symptoms, here’s a look at what it could be.

Pressure without pain

If pressure in your temples is your only symptom, chances are the muscles in your face, neck, or jaws are tense. This could be from stress or anxiety, fatigue, or even poor posture.

Pressure and dizziness

Temple pressure and dizziness can result from a problem with your middle ear, a concussion or other brain injury, or a problem with your cervical spine, such as a bulging disc.

Pressure in temples and ears

A buildup of earwax or an ear infection can cause you to feel pressure in your temples and ears. Sinus inflammation from allergies or an upper respiratory infection can also cause these symptoms, along with a stuffy nose.

Pressure in temples and jaw

TMJ is the most likely cause of pressure in your temples and jaw. Sinus and dental issues can also cause pain and pressure.

Treatment will depend on what’s causing the pressure.

Tension headaches

Managing your stress, getting enough sleep, and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent tension headaches. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also relieve pressure and pain.

Migraine

Tracking and avoiding migraine triggers can help prevent migraines or reduce the frequency and severity. Medication to relieve the pain or prevent migraines is also available in OTC form or by prescription from your doctor.

Cervicogenic headache

Treatment involves treating the source of the pain, such as surgery or medications for a bulging disc or osteoarthritis. Physical therapy and proper posture can also help relieve symptoms.

TMJ

You may be able to relieve symptoms by relaxing your jaw and eating soft foods for a few days. OTC pain relievers can help if you’re also having head, face, or jaw pain. Your dentist may recommend a special mouth guard to prevent clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth in your sleep.

Sinus problems

Nasal sprays, allergy and cold medications, and decongestants can help relieve sinus inflammation and pressure. If you have a sinus infection, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics.

Ear problems

Common ear issues, such as ear infections and wax buildup, can be treated at home using olive oil or OTC ear drops. See a doctor if you experience hearing loss or your symptoms don’t improve with at-home treatment.

Other causes, including meningitis, brain injuries, and tumors, require medical care. See a doctor right away if you suspect you have any of these conditions. Bacterial meningitis is serious and can cause death in a matter of hours if not treated with antibiotics. Head trauma and brain injuries should always be evaluated by a doctor right away.

See a doctor if pressure in your temples comes on after a head injury or is accompanied by signs of an infection, such as fever and feeling unwell. Any new headaches or changes in headache patterns after the age of 50 should also be evaluated by a doctor.

Pressure in temples is fairly common and often brought on by stress or tense muscles in the jaw, head, or neck. OTC pain relievers, improving your posture, and managing your stress may be all you need. See your doctor if you’re concerned or have other symptoms.