The pulse you feel in your temples is normal and comes from your superficial temporal artery which is a branch of your external carotid artery.
The easiest place to feel this pulse is to lightly place your fingers on the side of your head, above and in front of your ear in the area that the earpiece of your sunglasses would cross.
So, with gentle pressure you can actually take a pulse reading — like you might do on your wrist. If you feel pain in that area, with or without touching, it could indicate a medical issue.
Feeling a pulse in your temples is normal. A faster or throbbing pulse accompanied with discomfort could indicate a specific condition requiring treatment.
Sometimes stress, anxiety, or physical exertion might cause you to have a fast heart rate or palpitations combined with pain and pressure in your temples.
The normal range for your resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. Tachycardia, or fast heartbeat, is over 100. Normal physical activity can raise your heart rate up to 150 to 170 beats per minute.
Beyond stress, palpitations might be caused by medications, such as decongestants or stimulants, such as caffeine or nicotine.
Rarely, palpitations might indicate an underlying condition, such as:
- certain thyroid problems
- mitral valve prolapse
If you’re concerned about your heart rate or palpitations, consult with your doctor about an electrocardiogram to detect any heart rhythm disturbances. You doctor will also, among other procedures, check your blood pressure.
Tension headaches often result from: temporary fatigue, anxiety, stress, or anger. Common symptoms include:
- soreness in your temples
- an aching sensation that might feel like a tightening
band around your head
- contracting head and neck muscles
Your doctor might recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications and suggest relaxation training.
Migraine is a sustained throbbing pain that can be felt at your temples, as well as other areas of your head. It commonly begins as a dull ache that builds to pulsating pain. Other symptoms may include:
- sensitivity to light
Migraine is believed to be caused by chemical reactions in the brain. Your doctor might recommend treating your migraine with over-the-counter or prescription medications. Your doctor might also suggest biofeedback and relaxation training.
If the throbbing pain in your temples becomes a constant headache and it’s painful to touch your temples, you may have temporal arteritis. This condition — also called cranial arteritis and giant-cell arteritis — is caused by inflammation of the temporal arteries.
Although you’ll typically feel throbbing with temporal arteritis, the actual pulsations of the artery might decrease to the point where you can’t feel it. Other than pain and throbbing, symptoms may include:
- appetite loss
- vision loss
Doctors believe the condition involves antibodies attacking the arterial walls and creating swelling. This swelling restricts blood flow.
Your doctor may need to take a biopsy of the artery to diagnose temporal arteritis. The condition is often treated with a steroid, such as prednisone.
Feeling a pulse in your temple is normal. If you feel throbbing pain in your temples, chances are it’s a headache, and is probably nothing to worry about as long as the pain doesn’t last over 15 days a month or interfere with your life.
If you experience chronic headaches or feel that the pulsating pain in your temples could be a symptom of a medical condition, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a full diagnosis. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you don’t already have a doctor.