Some people are blessed with health: they never come down with colds, never have to take a day off work, and never get involved in serious accidents. For the rest of us, aches and pains are all too common. These aches and pains come and go, some worse than others. Particularly worrying, though, are tender spots on the head that seem to come back time after time.
Of course, when you’re in an accident, you can understand why your body is in pain. You can follow why it takes time to heal. What is more puzzling is when you suffer from pain and tenderness on the back of your head, but there is no apparent reason why. The pain just came from nowhere, and nothing you do seems to make it any better.
If you found this page, you must be experiencing a sore spot on the back of the head. If you had hit your head, or you were in an accident not too long ago, you would know what’s causing it. But the worst thing about scalp tenderness is that it seems to be caused by nothing at all.
To help, we have created this guide, so that you can get to the bottom of why your scalp is painful when pressed. There are many problems which might be the cause; some infections or illness, others chronic stress, and others skin conditions.
Table of Contents:
The kind of pain that you are experiencing is surprisingly common, albeit confusing. It can be irritating to find that you have a tender spot, which feels painful to the touch just like a bruise, but which has no obvious cause.
But even though you might not be sure what could cause pain like the kind you are experiencing, there are a number of potential causes. Scalp and head sensitivity can be caused by two central problems: physical damage and skin conditions.
The reason why physical damage could cause your pain is obvious; impacts cause bruises and damage that can last for a long time, especially in sensitive areas like the scalp and the back of the head. But even if your pain is not caused by bruising, physical damage could still play a part. For instance, your lymph glands could be swollen, or your nerves could be damaged by chronic posture problems.
But more common if your pain is not caused by bruising are skin conditions. There are many skin conditions which could be the cause of your pain. Each of them is discussed in more detail below.
Something which can confuse matters is that tender spots such as these can also co-occur with other symptoms.
Here are just a few symptoms which you may also be experiencing:
So, what might be causing your tender spot?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition which has only recently been recognized by the medical community. It is characterized by pain and sensitivity throughout the body, as well as many other problems. Among the locations of tenderness throughout the body, fibromyalgia also causes pain at the back of the head.
The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is that you suffer from trigger points. These trigger points are located at various locations around the body. So, for example, fibromyalgia sufferers will typically experience pain around the elbows, hips, lower back and knees.
It is also common for sufferers to experience pain at a number of points around the neck. Typically pain will cluster around the larynx and at the point where the neck and the skull meet. People with fibromyalgia also experience greater sensitivity of the skin, and so can develop painful points anywhere on the body.
These spots may develop bruising, or they may not. Fibromyalgia is not entirely understood by science, so signs and symptoms can vary.
But if you are experiencing pains like these alongside these other symptoms, you may have fibromyalgia:
Fibromyalgia is not the only physical problem which can cause a tender spot on the back of your head. The problem may be your lymph glands.
Another physical reason that you may be experiencing sore spot on the back of the head? It could be a problem with your lymph glands. More specifically, the problem could be that your lymph glands are swollen in response to a particular trigger. This can cause sensitivity at the base of your skull, where there is a cluster of these glands.
Lymph glands or lymph ‘nodes’ are what make up your lymphatic system. This system helps your body to combat infections, injuries, and diseases. They come in various sizes, from the size of a pinhead to as big as a grape. There are three key locations where clusters of lymph glands concentrate: the neck, the armpit, and the groin.
If any of the following apply to you, you may have swollen lymph nodes:
If any of the above applies to you, your lymph nodes may have become swollen and painful. This could be the cause of your tender spot at the base of your skull. The best thing to do is to fight your cold or wound infection using antibiotics and proper wound dressings.
But, you say, ‘I think that is caused by a skin condition and isn’t just something general!’ Dermatitis is a condition which inflames the skin, causing a rash and some swelling. In the very worst cases, you may also experience skin flaking and even blisters. This could, therefore, be what is causing your tenderness.
Contact dermatitis is a common condition, which can affect any part of the body, the scalp and back of the head included. The areas that it affects can become sore to the touch. The tricky thing about dermatitis is that you will not be able to see it on the scalp. The only thing you will be able to see is dandruff.
It can be caused by almost anything, just like allergies, except it affects the skin. Among the most well-known causes of dermatitis are:
It can be difficult to treat dermatitis on the scalp through regular means. Typically, people choose to treat their dermatitis with topical creams. This is far more difficult when the patch is underneath your hair. As such, you may prefer over the counter oral medication which can reduce your inflammation instead.
Seborrheic dermatitis is a specific kind of dermatitis, not caused by contact with irritants. Instead, seborrheic dermatitis is caused by a problem with your sweat glands and hair follicles. The exact cause is unknown. But it seems to be triggered by similar triggers to other forms of the condition. If you can see past your hair, you may notice that the skin has become yellow, greasy and thickened.
Seborrheic dermatitis has the same symptoms as contact dermatitis. Your skin becomes red and sensitive and begins to flake. In the worst cases, you can develop blisters. Since it is in some way related to sweat glands and hair follicles, seborrheic dermatitis typically occurs where there are many pores in the body. One such place is the scalp.
This form of dermatitis is not contagious. That being said, you may find that a number of the members of your household experience it at the same time. This is because you may all be experiencing the same trigger, such as a kind of shampoo, or washing powder. The giveaway to look for is dandruff. You need to use a specific seborrheic dermatitis shampoo if you have colored hair.
These are classic signs of seborrheic dermatitis. All forms of dermatitis, this one included, make the affected area sensitive. This could, therefore, be the cause of your sore spot. Like other forms of dermatitis, you should treat your condition with topical creams and oral medication.
Another disorder of the skin that can cause scalp and head pain is scalp psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition which, like dermatitis, can affect any part of the body. Its cause is unknown, and there is no complete cure, although you can choose from many treatment options. Psoriasis could, therefore, be causing your spot on head painful to touch.
In around 50% of cases, psoriasis affects the scalp. It typically occurs around the hairline, either at the front or back. Psoriasis appears similar to dermatitis. It is diagnosed using the following symptoms:
Like dermatitis, psoriasis is treated using topical creams and ointments.
If these treatments fail or are inapplicable, you have many options available:
Scalp ringworm is the last potential cause of your tender spot on our list. If you weren’t aware, ringworm is not caused by a real, live worm. Instead, ringworm is the term for a common fungal infection which is also the cause of jock itch and athlete’s foot. Ringworm is therefore contagious, unlike the conditions mentioned above.
It can occur anywhere on the body, including the scalp. When ringworm occurs on the scalp, its scientific name is tinea capitis. Like other skin conditions, ringworm causes flaky, itchy skin. But it can also cause hair loss, which can be disconcerting. This hair loss can be permanent after an extended period of infection.
When it occurs on your scalp, ringworm can give you painful sores. These sores are large and obvious and look almost like small calluses. Specifically, these sores are abscesses caused by the fungal infection of ringworm. They gradually fill with pus and can grow to an inch or more in size. As you can imagine, this can be quite painful indeed.
If your ringworm becomes this serious, there are many treatments to choose from. These include:
In conclusion, your tender spot could be caused by any number of problems. If you feel that the back of your head feels bruised to touch but no injury, you may have a painful skin condition.
To help you identify the specific cause of your tender spot on the back of the head, use the following guidelines:
Do you have pain that comes and goes elsewhere around your body? More specifically, do you have pain around the elbows, inner thighs, lower back, and neck? If so, you may have fibromyalgia. This is especially likely if you also have trouble concentrating and difficulty sleeping. Fortunately, there are many products that you can use to tackle the pain of ‘fibro’.
Are you uninjured, but fighting off an infection? Do you have a cold, the flu, or a wound on the upper half of your body? If so, your lymph nodes may be swelling to attack the infection or illness. Antibiotics and wound treatments should help.
Do you have dandruff on and around your tender spot? If so, you may have a form of dermatitis. If the patch is greasy, you may have seborrheic dermatitis. Topical moisturizing creams can help, as can changing your lifestyle. The same applies to psoriasis.
If you have ringworm, there are many antifungal options for you to choose from. Natural methods such as essential oils, as well as over-the-counter ointments, can reverse the fungal growth of ringworm.