Why Do I Get a Sore Scalp When I Have a Tension Headache?

Some experts believe that tension headaches are caused by increased contractions of the neck and scalp muscles, which may produce scalp soreness during episodes, explains MedlinePlus. Others suggest that tension headaches increase people’s sensitivity to pain, leading to muscle tenderness in the scalp and neck, according to Mayo Clinic.

A tension headache is often described as a tight, pressure-like, banding pain around the head. The pain is often worse in the scalp, neck, temples, back and shoulders. It may occur once, multiple times or continuously throughout the day. Some common triggers of tension headaches are caffeine, alcohol, smoking, a cold, flu, sinus infections, tooth problems, eyestrain, fatigue, stress and depression, explains MedlinePlus.

The best way to treat recurring tension headaches is with home management and medication. It is important for patients to keep a logbook and document each incident to help identify triggers. Some common medications used to treat tension headaches include over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen, narcotic pain relievers, and muscle relaxants, explains MedlinePlus.

In cases of frequent tension headaches, a doctor may prescribe preventive medications such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants. These medications may take a few weeks to work because they need to build up in the system before their effects are felt, according to Mayo Clinic.