What is scalp pain? What are the reasons behind scalp pain? Is it a sign of cancer or another problem?
Scalp pain is a common complaint that can be symptoms of head injury, headaches and skin disorders. It may be due to trauma to the head area including skull, scalp or brain. It can also be caused by generalized conditions in the body e.g. cancer.
Learn more on scalp pain meaning, causes, symptoms, scalp pain and hair loss, treatments options for pain on scalp and much more.
- Scalp pain causes – why do I have scalp pain
- Symptoms for Painful scalp
- Scalp Pain and Hair Loss
- Scalp Pain Treatments, home remedies and prevention
Scalp pain causes – why do I have scalp pain
The causes of scalp pain may range from skin conditions and infections, to nerve and blood cells disorders, physical irritation and more. Medical experts therefore find painful scalp or scalp tenderness a health condition that can be much thought provoking to diagnose.
According to Headacheexpert.co.uk, “scalp pain is felt at the surface of the skin covering the skull and tends to be sharp, stabbing or prickly, with a tingling sensation rather than the deep throbbing pain of a headache.” Common causes of painful scalp including the following factor or conditions:
There are several skin conditions that can lead to scalp pain, tenderness or sensitivity. Such skin conditions can be very difficult to treat especially those that are hidden under the hair. What should be clear is that, many skin conditions induces itching that can lead to secondary infections when scratched.
Therefore, it is the secondary infection can result painful scalp sore scalp hair loss. Common skin conditions affecting scalp are psoriasis, dermatitis, ringworm among others. Many skin conditions are usually triggered by contact with the following substances:
- certain cosmetics
- certain metals
- certain soaps
- poison ivy
- certain laundry detergents
- certain hair products
This a painful condition due to inflammation pressure around the part of trigeminal neuralgia. This nerve supplies sensation to the scalp, forehead and face. It has three branches that if affected will have different kind of pains. If the ophthalmic branch is affected, there will be sharp, stabbing pain around the eye and along the forehead leading to extreme painful scalp.
Trigeminal neuralgia can develop with acute or chronic symptoms. The resultant symptoms may range from mild to moderate to severe. It usually demand urgent medical response.
Scalp trauma – blunt trauma
Physical injury to the head can also lead pain in scalp. Scalp bruising or tenderness can actually result from high-energy blow to the head. If serious, this must be responded in an emergency setting.
Fibromyalgia scalp pain
Fibromyalgia is complicated condition that causes widespread body pain including scalp and other symptoms. Though many body parts can be affected, common symptoms for this condition are pain in scalp.
Other symptoms include frequent urination, extremely tiredness, sleeplessness, and irritable bowels among other symptoms. The cause of this condition is not known.
Another common cause of scalp pain is the use of chemicals that can result to sore on the scalp. Certain hair care products such as hair coloring and shampoos that contain sodium laureth sulfate can lead to development of scalp. These are harsh chemical and continued used can use will lead hair loss and will also disturb the protective oil layer on the scalp hence leading to severe scalp problems.
There are several Bacterial, fungal and viral infections can lead to a scalp sore to touch. Bacterial infections that can lead scalp hurt are folliculitis and impetigo. Sore on the scalp may be as results ringworm, fungal infection that lead to round, red patches on the scalp and can be very itchy indeed. If such itchiness are scratched, secondary infections may find their roots leading to even hair loss.
Viral infections e.g. shingles and chickenpox can also develop on the head resulting to painful and itchy scalp. These two skin infections can cause red, inflamed spots on the scalp. Normally the spots are pus-filled.
Muscle contraction headache
According to Newhealthguide.org, “If you experience headaches caused by muscle contractions, the muscle contractions may actually cause your scalp to hurt.” Such scalp pain can be experienced when you brush your hair and will just vanish as the headache also diminishes.
Medical experts have considered painful scalp to be a side effect of chemotherapy treatments. “Chemotherapy is the use of any drug to treat any disease. But to most people, the word chemotherapy means drugs used for cancer treatment.” [cancer.org]. Pain in scalp due to chemotherapy is usually accompanied by hair loss. The pain is normally experienced before hair loss and can again be very worse after hair loss.
Excessive oily scalp
People with oily scalp can also be vulnerable to scalp hurt. According to Healthline.com, “You may be more prone to scalp pain if you have a naturally greasy or dry scalp.” When there is excess production of oil and sweat on the scalp, the skin pores may get clogged leading occurrences of acne on the scalp. The acnes can be infected leading to severe pain and hair loss.
Some of the factors that can lead to overactive sebaceous gland include hormonal disorders, certain medications among others.
Less common causes of scalp pain
Apart from the above causes for itchy scalp, there are also other less common causes for pain in scalp. They include:
- Dry skin
- Lice infestation
- Excessive combing or bruising of long hair
- Tight hair braiding.
- Climatic conditions
- Food allergies or sensitivities
Symptoms for Painful scalp
Because scalp pain has several causes, expect there to be several possible symptoms. The symptoms may due to headache, trauma or other conditions. Commonly experienced symptoms along scalp pain include:
- Neck pain
- Sore bumps on scalp
- Red sores on scalp
- Scalp tenderness
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Nausea (without vomiting)
- Bleeding, bruising, redness or swelling of the affected scalp skin
- Neck stiffness
- Problem with memory
- Itchy scalp
- Scalp tender to touch
- Rash on the scalp
- Skin sore
There are also cases where scalp pain itself can be a symptom of serious life-threatening condition. This should be given immediate medical intervention in emergency background. According to Dr. Amee Daxini, MD – Dermatology, DNB – Dermatology & Venereology , MBBS, Dermatologist , Aesthetic Dermatologist , 15 Years of Experience, “If there are repeated headaches ,runny nose and if there is any deviation in your vision then it is more of a central nervous system problem and accordingly needs treatment.” Therefore don’t hesitate to see your doctor in case of the following symptoms:
- Compromised balance and coordination
- Damage of vision in one or both eyes
- Numbness or prickling in the arms or legs
- Paresthesia following a head, neck or back injury
- Abnormal pupil size
- Sensory changes i.e. your vision, hearing or smelling is impaired
- Unequal size of pupils
- Loss of consciousness
- Change in level of consciousness or lethargy
- Draining nose, mouth or ears
Scalp Pain and Hair Loss
Patient who usually complain of hair loss frequently complain that their scalp also becomes painful. The reverse of this phenomenon is also true: painful scalp can also lead to hair loss.
There are causes of hair loss that may not cause any pain. Hair loss on the scalp can be due hereditary factors that mostly run in many families. So causes of hair loss that are accompanied with scalp pain include:
- Infectious agents such as ringworm, folliculitis, piedra, Demodex folliculorum and Seborrheic Dermatitis
- Hair pulling or hair twisting
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- Recent surgery or high fever
- Diseases e.g. lupus
- Hair shaft damage from burns or other injuries
- Allergic skin reactions
- Sebaceous cysts
- Skin Cancer
Usually, many causes only result temporary hair loss, but some causes can lead to permanent baldness.
Scalp Pain Treatments, home remedies and prevention
Scalp pain treatment usually vary depending on the causes or symptoms. The treatments may range from just simple over the counter pain relievers to stronger prescribed medications such as oral antibiotics. Here are the commonly applied scalp pain treatments:
- Special medicated sensitive scalp shampoos for relieving itchiness or dry flaky scalp.
- Over the counter medications that help relieve inflammation or head the leads to scalp sensitivity
- Oral or topical antihistamines can also provide scalp pain relief
- Antibiotic and antifungal medications
Home remedies for a painful scalp
Massaging you hair and scalp using some of the effective essential oils such as lavender or rosemary oil. These oils can help cure the sore itchy scalp. However, you should note that application of undiluted oil could worsen the already existing symptoms. To apply oil on your scalp, take a glass of warm water and then add to ½ teaspoon of the oil you wish to apply. Massage your scalp using the mixture and leave it in for around 20 minutes then wash it off.
More home products that can also be applied to heal painful scalp include lemon juice, tea tree oil, baking soda, aloe Vera and more. Remember these mentioned home product have got effective antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, acidic and moisturizing properties that make them potent for combating skin conditions that may lead to scalp pain, scalp tenderness or scalp sensitivity.
There are more treatments options that can be offered to your painful scalp depending on your symptoms.
Other ways to treat or prevent scalp pain include:
Besides the above, here are more ways to prevent scalp pain as well as treat the pain.
- Always keep you scalp clean to avoid buildup of dandruff, sweat and body oils
- Don’t scratch you scalp, this may lead to other secondary infections
- Brush or comb your hair several times in a day to allow effective flow natural oil in the scalp
- Maintain personal hygiene including not sharing personal belongings such as towels, pillow cases, hair brushes, combs, sheets and so on, otherwise you may enhance spread of bacteria and viruses hence further infections
- Use natural products that are free from harmful chemicals
- Try to avoid anything oily
- Try to always use ant-allergic products
- Maintain balanced diet
- Always prefer medically prescribed gentle shampoos
- Avoid products which contain sodium laurel sulfate
Though some naturally have a tender or sensitive scalp that can enhance development of itchy scalp, there are still underlying conditions that can still lead to scalp tenderness, sensitivity and pain.
Therefore, simple treatments are not relieving your pain and symptoms are very serious and continue to persist, please schedule immediate appointment with your doctor. He/she may diagnose you and will prescribe stronger medications that might be very effective for your scalp pain.
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- Scalp Pain: https://www.healthgrades.com/symptoms/scalp-pain
- What Are the Causes of a Sensitive & Painful Scalp: http://www.livestrong.com/article/155049-what-are-the-causes-of-a-sensitive-painful-scalp/
- Scalp Pain: What Causes It: http://www.headacheexpert.co.uk/scalp-pain-what-causes-it.html
- 4 Easy Home Remedies to Treat Scalp Pain: http://www.searchhomeremedy.com/4-easy-home-remedies-to-treat-scalp-pain/
- Scalp Pain, sensitivity, burning, and Hair Loss: https://www.womenshairlossproject.com/hair-loss/scalp-pain-sensitivity-burning-and-hair-loss/
- Scalp Pain: Causes, Treatment, and More: http://www.healthline.com/health/scalp-tenderness?s_con_rec=false&r=00
- Common Causes of Scalp Tenderness and Sensitivity: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313791.php
- 50 Effective Home Remedies To Treat Scalp Pain: http://www.stylecraze.com/articles/effective-home-remedies-to-treat-scalp-pain/#gref