Headaches are a common condition with causes that can be difficult to identify. A variety of factors ranging from lifestyle, diet, genetic conditions, or general stress can lead to headaches, which can evolve into more serious conditions like migraines, nerve pain, or scalp tenderness. Severity may also differ: a patient may experience extremely painful headaches that disappear the next day or low-grade headaches that last for weeks.
But what exactly causes scalp pain? Scalp tenderness is usually caused by active medical conditions that affect the skin, autoimmune responses that attack hair follicles, or lifestyle conditions that influence scalp health. It’s characterized by nerve pain or tingling sensations in the scalp or blood vessels, usually when hair is moved or when pressure is applied.
Scalp Pain Causes And Diagnosis
Common signs of scalp pain include acute pain, irritation, inflammation, itching, or a throbbing sensation in the scalp. It can also manifest in tingling sensations or acute pain in the nerves around the head and neck. These symptoms may be isolated or occur all at once. The more severe the symptoms, the more immediate the issue.
Here are some of the common causes of scalp pain:
1. Alopecia areata
This form of hair loss occurs when the immune system malfunctions and starts attacking hair follicles. Typically occurring with patients who have a family history of autoimmune diseases, this condition is relatively hard to predict and requires constant treatment to manage.
2. Tension headaches and or chronic migraine
Tension headaches are one of the most common reasons for scalp pain and can be caused by stress, depression, anxiety, or injury. These factors can also cause chronic migraines and headaches, with the addition of being triggered by medication, alcohol, caffeine, or obesity. This may also be caused by nerves in the head tensing in response to stimuli.
3. Skin infections
Bacteria and fungi can often settle on the scalp, especially if it hasn’t been washed. The assorted oils and trapped debris create perfect conditions for infections like psoriasis and eczema to occur. Other conditions like impetigo can be transmitted via contaminated surfaces or spread of another site on the patient’s body.
Lice are one of the most common causes of parasite-induced scalp pain, especially with people who have untreated pets. While infestations can be mild at the start, they quickly spread if left unattended, potentially infecting other people in the vicinity.
5. Other skin conditions
Dermatitis is a severe form of eczema caused by many factors like genes, environment, or allergies. Treatment of this condition can only start once the underlying cause has been confirmed, or the dermatologist or doctor risks aggravating the condition.
6. Temporal arteritis
Although the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it can have serious complications if left untreated. Characterized by painful inflammation of the temporal arteries (blood vessels that travel to the head and neck), this condition should always be tested for by a doctor/dermatologist if a patient reports severe scalp pain.
7. Improper headwear or use of hair products
Tying hair in tight ponytails, wearing snug headwear, and hair dye are also common causes of scalp pain. These are mechanical stresses on the nerves in your scalp, which may cause blood vessels to flare up in response. While these causes can be treated on their own, it’s still advisable for doctors and dermatologists to check for other factors that may cause scalp pain.
Scalp pain may also manifest as allodynia, or painful reactions to typically non-painful activities like brushing hair. Allodynia can be mild to severe, with some allodynia symptoms going away on their own and others persisting for months. Allodynia is not an increased reaction to pain or hypersensitivity, which are nerve conditions that may be related to but not the primary cause of scalp pain.
There are three kinds of allodynia triggers:
- Tactile allodynia: caused by pressure on the skin, typically around the scalp or crown
- Thermal allodynia: caused by temperature, like hot water during a bath
- Mechanical allodynia: caused by movement on the surface of the skin, like brushing hair
Allodynia needs to be diagnosed by a doctor/dermatologist as it’s difficult to treat with ascertaining its underlying cause. Plenty of issues can cause nerves in the head to manifest acute pain, and it’s critical to obtain the correct diagnosis before recommending a solution.
Dermatologists or doctors may diagnose scalp pain based on the severity of the symptoms, the kind of pain the patient is feeling (from tingling sensation to sharps to acute pain), or after a thorough check of someone’s medical history.
How Is Scalp Pain Treated?
Once the doctor or dermatologist has confirmed the cause of scalp pain, there are several solutions that they can recommend to ease or treat the condition:
1. Over-the-counter medications
Ibuprofen is a reliable way to treat scalp pain, especially ones that manifest in acute pain or inflammation. Other topical medications that can treat sores and/or fungal infestations can also help with managing the pain while treating the root cause.
Dermatologists may also recommend topical creams for conditions that cause sores or inflammation in the scalp, though patients will need to apply these products consistently as directed for the best results. Other medications such as painkillers work on the nerves directly to reduce pain.
2. Laser treatments
For conditions like psoriasis, laser therapy can be an effective tool in management and treatment. High-intensity ultraviolet light is aimed directly at psoriasis clusters, breaking apart the cells that cause psoriasis. For safety reasons, patients will need to be cleared by their doctor or dermatologist before undergoing this treatment.
3. Special shampoos and conditioners
Shampoos and conditioners can supplement topical creams or medications in dealing with scalp pain, especially if it’s caused by dandruff or dry skin. These products rarely need a prescription to use, though doctors and dermatologists should always ask their patients if they are using them during their consultations.
4. Essential oils
Rosemary and lavender oil can be effective treatments for scalp pain, though patients need to consider the severity of their scalp pain and its root cause before considering essential oils as treatment. Dermatologists can recommend specific essential oils as supplements for the primary treatment for scalp pain, or as a measure to improve the patient’s quality of life after intense procedures like laser surgery.
5. Medical supplements
Medical supplements like iron and zinc can help manage the acute pain from scalp pain (with other symptoms like hair loss), but should always be approved by a doctor/dermatologist before use. One medical supplement that’s steadily gaining more traction is PEP factor.
PEP factor products introduce more collagen and elastin to the scalp, which can potentially help stimulate hair follicle growth. As a potential skin rejuvenation treatment, it may encourage better scalp health and may treat other symptoms of scalp pain like hair loss.
Again, it’s crucial for both patients and dermatologists or doctors to identify the primary cause of scalp pain correctly before using any of these solutions, as misdiagnosis and incorrect solutions can cause scalp pain to intensify and develop into more serious complications.
Get High-Quality Scalp Rejuvenation Products From FACE Medical Supply
Scalp pain can be a precursor to many types of medical or health conditions. With early detection and identification, scalp pain can be an excellent sign of someone’s overall health.
At FACE Medical Supply, we offer high-quality medical products and tools for scalp rejuvenation treatments at affordable prices. Contact us today to inquire about our stocks.
Learn more: Hyaluronic Acid For Hair: How It Works