Headaches due to external compression

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2010 Aug;14(4):321-4. doi: 10.1007/s11916-010-0122-x.


Headache is one of the most common types of recurrent pain in medical practice. Although nearly everyone has occasional headaches, there are well-defined headache disorders that vary in incidence and prevalence. Among the unusual headache syndromes, headache due to external compression is a poorly studied headache considered to arise as a result of continued stimulation of cutaneous nerves by the application of pressure over the scalp or forehead. The wearing of bands around the head, specifically goggles (such as those worn for swimming), tight hats, or even professional helmets have been described as causative factors. The pain is often constant and more severe at the location where the object is pressing the head. In predisposed patients (ie, those with migraine), external compression may lead to a more severe migrainous headache if the stimulus is prolonged. The mechanism responsible is the compression of trigeminal or occipital nerves branches. The headache resolves after pressure is relieved, or is prevented by avoiding the precipitating cause. Drugs are rarely used.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye Protective Devices / adverse effects*
  • Head Protective Devices / adverse effects*
  • Headache / diagnosis*
  • Headache / etiology*
  • Headache / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / complications
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / diagnosis
  • Nerve Compression Syndromes / prevention & control
  • Pressure / adverse effects*