The most common kind of pain or discomfort in the head is usually due to a tension headache. These are usually caused by tight muscles in the neck, shoulder and jaws and are often related to stress, minor injury or abnormal positioning. Tension headaches tend to affect both sides of the head and have a dull, squeezing pain.
If you are experiencing pain that's localized to one side of the head, especially if it's sharp, pounding or pulsating, it may be due to something other than a tension headache.
- Migraines: Localized pain that is throbbing, pounding or pulsating that is accompanied by vision changes, nausea or sensitivity to light or sound. Episodes and can last up to 72 hours.
- Cluster Headaches: Sharp, debilitating headaches that occur suddenly, several times a day for months. These have a cyclical nature and usually disappear for a significant length of time and then suddenly reappear again. Associated symptoms include eye tearing, runny nose, nasal stuffiness and occasionally a drooping eyelid and pupil constriction.
- Exertion Headaches: Powerful localized pain that occurs just after or during strenuous activity. It is often described as throbbing or like a 'blow to the head' and can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
- TMJ Disorder: Temporomandibular joint disorder usually manifests with a dull aching pain that occurs below the ear. It may spread towards the temple, the middle of the face or across the front of the skull. Associated symptoms can include clicking, locking or stiffening of the jaw, tenderness and joint slipping.
- Occipital Neuralgia: A jabbing or throbbing pain often starts at the base of the skull, in the back off the head, and may radiate to the front of the head. This may be accompanied by scalp sensitivity, dizziness and, in rare cases, nausea and vomiting.
- In much less common, but serious cases localized pain may be due to vascular issues such as an aneurysm, stroke or swollen arteries, infections such as meningitis, encephalitis or an abscess, brain swelling or a brain tumor.
If you are experiencing localize pain, consult your doctor. They will be able to do an assessment, make a diagnosis and prescribe any necessary treatments or course of action.