Pressure in the head - symptoms, causes and treatment

Pressure in the head - symptoms, causes and treatment

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Head presses - causes, symptoms and therapy

Everyone knows this: it pounds in the temples, it presses under the skull. The pain usually passes. Sometimes it lasts for weeks or keeps coming back.

The most important facts

  • Pressure in the head appears as dull pain on one or both sides of the head.
  • It can have a variety of triggers: heat, lack of fluids, drug abuse, stress, fatigue, muscle tension, migraines, tumors or nervous disorders.
  • Pressure pain in the head is usually harmless, but very uncomfortable. That's why you should go to the doctor quickly.
  • Treatment varies depending on the trigger. With many causes, walks and fresh air already alleviate the symptoms. Pain relievers can also help relieve symptoms.

What is "pressure in the head"?

As a rule, the pressure is a certain form of headache, often a so-called tension headache. This is usually harmless and passes quickly, but can also become chronic. Then it lasts for weeks, returns at intervals, and does not subside when you take medication.


The causes of a head press are usually not serious. Exactly where they come from remains unclear. Muscle tension can play a role, especially on the neck, neck and shoulders. Likewise trigger points that trigger the pain when pressure is on them. Sleep disorders and eye strain are also mentioned as possible causes.

With chronic pressure, pain processing in the brain is often demonstrably disrupted. Fever infections and stress have also been demonstrated as triggers. In addition, genetic predispositions are a factor in the development of this pain, because they occur frequently in certain families.
A less common cause is idiopathic intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri), which is accompanied by mostly daily headaches, sometimes with nausea, visual disturbances and tinnitus.

When should you see a doctor?

Aiming at the thumb, a visit to the doctor is recommended if the pain persists for at least two days. There may be a bacterial infection and the need for medication. Depending on the type of bacteria, such an infection can be dangerous if left untreated. Usually the pressure gets worse. There are also nausea, fever, vomiting, body aches and general malaise.

If you suffer permanently from pressure pain in the head and / or these pain return at intervals, you should definitely consult a doctor. He will then determine what the underlying disease is, or forward it to the appropriate medical specialist if there is a serious suspicion. If you do not go to the doctor, you must expect that your condition will continuously worsen.


The main symptom is a dull pain in the head, in severe cases as if a screw clamp is pressing the skull together. If it is a tension headache, this pressure always occurs on both sides, only one-sided in a migraine. The perception of light and noise is not restricted in tension pains, but it is clear in migraines.

Otherwise, the symptoms are individually different. Some experience pressure for several hours, others at certain times of the day, others for days and weeks. If the feeling of pressure shows up more than four times a month, doctors speak of a chronic course.

Another symptom only occurs if the cause is muscle tension. Here the muscles on the shoulders and neck are tight.


Diagnosing where the pain originates from is often not easy. A comprehensive discussion with those affected is very important. First of all, it is about the type of pain (oppressive, dull, boring, pulling, etc.), then about its intensity and length and finally about possible triggers such as drug addiction, sleep disorders or stress.

Since the pain is different in each patient, the diagnosis is not easy. For example, people who react intensely to environmental stimuli can feel the pressure very intensely, although the cause is harmless. On the other hand, people with low pain sensation feel only slight pressure, although there is a serious cause. A quick diagnosis is often not possible because the pain can be caused by various causes.

Physical examinations go hand in hand with blood sampling and possible laboratory tests, in case of doubt even imaging methods. If you suspect nerve disorders, your family doctor will refer you to a neurologist. The examines the reflexes as well as the brain and spinal cord. In the case of a chronic course, multiple sclerosis could also be present.


Pressuring headaches occupy those affected, distract them from their concentration and reduce their quality of life. If this pain persists, it can lead to sleep problems, and those affected become increasingly irritable. With the dull pressure, many jobs are difficult or impossible to carry out. It is difficult for those affected to get clear thoughts in the long run.


If the cause is not clear, the symptoms are treated, for example with pain relievers. If the pain is caused by muscle tension, massages help and the patient should also change the wrong posture that caused the tension. With stress and tension as a trigger, the healing prognosis for pressure pain is good if the triggers are no longer present.

For chronic pressure pain in the head, more extensive therapies are recommended, for example infusion therapy with muscle relaxers or physiotherapy, possibly even a cure.

If misused drugs play the main role, those affected have to get by without headache medicine.

Pressure pains in the head can usually be treated conservatively, unless the cause is a brain tumor or another pathological change in the brain vessels.


Prevention plays a major role in pressure pain in the head. Outdoor hikes are particularly suitable here, ideally in the forest and in every season. With this we take in a decent input of oxygen and vitamin D. Even mild remedies for depression have proven their worth, as have muscle relaxations at the workplace as well as the avoidance of excessive alcohol consumption and smoking.

Printhead pain in summer

In hot summers, as we have seen in recent years, many people suffer from pressure in the head. Heat triggers headaches as does glaring light. Differences in temperature can cause headaches as well as increased ozone levels. But the main cause of headaches in summer is a lack of fluids. Many people drink too little in the heat.

What helps against headaches in summer?

  • Often stay in the shade. If the headache is already striking, place ice packs, cold, wet towels, or cool compresses on your forehead, temple, and neck.
  • Swim and dip your head under the water.
  • Drink a lot, at least two liters a day. If it is hot and you may also be doing sports, you need more fluid accordingly.
  • For acute pain, it helps to apply peppermint oil on the temple and neck.

What helps against pressure headaches in stress?

If negative stress triggers the headache, find out the cause first. Are you stressed out because of anxiety? Anxiety therapy is then recommended. In general, you should plan simple exercises in everyday life for excessive stress, such as methods such as autogenic training, yoga or meditation. Regular breaks at work also help. Walking in nature is one of the best ways to relieve stress. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Andreas Straube: Therapy of episodic and chronic tension-type headache and other chronic daily headache, guidelines for diagnostics and therapy in neurology, German Society for Neurology, (accessed August 12, 2019), AWMF
  • Stephen D. Silberstein: Tension Headache, MSD Manual, (accessed August 12, 2019), MSD
  • Stephen D. Silberstein: Migraines, MSD Manual, (accessed August 12, 2019), MSD
  • Stephen D. Silberstein: Idiopathic intracranial hypertension, MSD Manual, (accessed August 12, 2019), MSD
  • Charly Gaul, Hans Christoph Diener: Headache: Pathophysiology - Clinic - Diagnostics - Therapy, Thieme Verlag, 1st edition, 2016

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