Causes of scalp tenderness include conditions such as occipital neuralgia, head lice and temporal arteritis, according to Healthgrades. Occipital neuralgia is irritation of the occipital nerves, which emerge from the spine in the upper back and reach as far as the forehead.
Occipital neuralgia occurs either spontaneously or as a result of pinched nerve, a prior injury to the scalp or tight muscles at the back of the head, explains Johns Hopkins Medicine. Patients with occipital neuralgia experience zapping, shooting, tingling or electric pain in the affected area, usually on one side of the scalp. Some patients experience numbness and tenderness as well.
Head lice are insects that live on the scalp, eyebrows and eyelashes, according to MedlinePlus. The insects live up to 30 days on a human and are spread by close contact with infected people. Symptoms of head lice include intense itching, red bumps on the scalp and white specks on the bottom of each hair. Some patients develop red and tender skin due to a skin infection as a result of head lice.
Temporal arteritis occurs when arteries that supply blood to the head become damaged and inflamed, notes MedlinePlus. Doctors do not know what causes temporal arteritis, but believe that it is due to a problem with the immune system. Patients with temporal arteritis typically experience scalp tenderness and a throbbing headache on one side of the head. Other symptoms of the condition include fever, muscle aches and excessive sweating.