Compression Headaches

Updated July 19, 2017

Compression headaches occur when exterior sources are continuously pressing against the head or there is an internal condition causing pressure on one or more cranial nerves. Typically, the forehead and crown areas are affected externally by wearing headgear or participating in activities that involve constrictive pressure to the head. Internal compression may be due to inflammation, spasms or lesions. Relieving external pain is usually easy, but internal relief requires medical attention.


Pain around the constricted area, such as the forehead, could be the sign of a compression headache. The degree of pain can range from moderate to severe depending on the length of time pressure is applied. Additional symptoms could signify an internal condition exists. These may include eye pain, drooping eyelid, vision changes and difficulty controlling different parts of the body


Outside sources that cause prolonged headache pain varies. Wearing hats, helmets or goggles, or balancing objects or performing headstands can trigger an episode. Internal causes that may be more serious affecting the cranial nerve include tumours, trauma, infections and swelling.


Relieving the continuous pain from external pressure is usually simple. Removing the hat or other object, or stopping the activity causing your pain can solve the issue. Once the pressure is removed, relief is felt in a short period of time. Most of the time it is not necessary to take medication to relieve the pain. Relieving pain caused internally requires medical attention. Upon testing, treatment may include medication or a surgical procedure.


Occasionally, some individuals encounter a migraine as a result of prolonged head pressure. Medical attention may be needed to access what course of treatment will be required. If the pain does not subside after removing any headgear or stopping physical activity, contact your doctor. In serious cases, permanent changes in vision or nerve damage can occur. Only a doctor can establish a diagnosis of your condition.


Refraining from wearing headgear that is too tight or small, and not participating in constrictive activities will decrease the chance of setting off a compression headache. Get properly fitted for hats and helmets if you are required to wear them for protection or as part of a uniform. If you experience unusual head pain, or changes in vision or motor skills, see your doctor immediately. She can initiate the proper testing and advise you on any treatment that may be needed.

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About the Author

Bethany Harris has been writing professionally since 2008, focusing on topics in insurance and health. Her articles have appeared on various websites, including CompuQuotes and Clarity. Harris holds an Associate of Arts in communications and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in communications and technology from Axia College.