I have had my hair braided my whole life. I am familiar with not knowing how to place my head to sleep, having a hairdresser pull my hair so tight, it hurts to laugh, and slowly backing away when someone came to touch my hair. But that was a brief pain, happening once every a month or two and with an obvious culprit.
If your scalp is sensitive to being touched, combed or pressed more persistently, it may be something to be concerned about.
Most people complain about the following on their scalp:
- Dryness and itchiness
- Itchy bumps
- Tender or sensitive scalp
- Sore head
- Presence of scabs/ sores
- Spots appearance
Let’s explore the possible causes, but remember that excessively painful and severe tenderness should be discussed with a doctor.
Causes of a painful & sensitive scalp
The scalp can also suffer sunburn. This makes sense especially because the top of your head is almost directly underneath the sun. This is more likely where the hair is thinning out in some areas.
Other elements such as cold and wind, can also cause sensitivity.
While rare, the tenderness can be a sign of more severe health conditions such as skin cell cancers and melanomas. These conditions normally present themselves as new or changed moles or stubborn sores.
Dandruff can be caused by many things- some of which we discuss in this article. Depending on how severe, dandruff can cause scaly red patches on the scalp. This may make it sensitive to touch.
Excessive chemical exposure:
These are chemicals we willingly put into our hair and environmental chemicals as well. Although they fall outside the scope of products used regularly (shampoo, conditioner) they can sometimes be overused.
These chemicals include hair dyes, chemical treatments, and curling kits. Prolonged use of these and other potentially dangerous chemicals could lead to scalp sensitivity.
Tension headaches and migraines are the main types that cause this tenderness. Tension headaches are worsened by stress, anxiety or depression. Allergies and asthma are also known to cause headaches or scalp tenderness from coughing too much.
Temporal arteritis is where the blood cells are inflamed and usually leads to temple headaches and sensitivity of the scalp.
Trauma and hair loss
Any type of trauma to the head is likely to cause bruising. The tenderness in that area may cause scalp pain. Trauma may also lead to a headache.
The same proves true for hair loss, where the areas where loss of hair occurs are found to be rather sensitive. This symptom is known as trichodynia.
Medium risk causes
Besides the above, here are medium risk triggers for this problem:
Certain skin disorders like seborrheic dermatitis can cause tenderness. Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition that is chronically inflammatory. Symptoms besides pain include itchy patches, red in color and dry and flaky.
Another common skin disorder is psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis presents itself in the same red and itchy patches. These develop when the rate of skin cell growth increases.
Scratching worsens both conditions.
Infections and invasions
Hair follicle infections and fungal scalp infections can cause pain and sensitivity.
Lice also cause itching and scratching leading to a sore head. They can live in your head for almost 30 days and longer if they lay eggs. Which they will.
Bacterial skin infections, ringworm, and even shingles may all cause or result in, scalp tenderness.
The doctor will examine your scalp, ask for a medical history, and collect hair follicles for testing depending on the severity of the condition.
Doctors will ask general questions too with the aim of narrowing down the problem. The questions include diet, previous injuries, exercise, daily routine, recent changes, etc.
After diagnosis, the doctor will usually provide medicine depending on his discovery,
There are some basic things you can do at home to help alleviate the pain:
Use a special shampoo
Although regular shampoo may not necessarily cause scalp tenderness, using a special shampoo designed for dryness, itchiness, or flakiness.
Head & Shoulders is a good shampoo and easily accessible in most places.
Use essential oils
Some oils such as lavender or rosemary are particularly useful in helping with sores or scabs on the scalp.
Mix 1 glass of warm water with ½ tsp of the oil of your choice. After thoroughly mixing it, apply the mixture to and massage it for a while. Wait 15-20 minutes and then wash it off.
Make sure to perform a skin test on the mixture to prevent a negative reaction.
Relieve scalp pain
Sometimes, especially the pain is caused by a tension headache, a scalp massage may work wonders in relieving pain. Using your fingertip, massage in circular motions.
If it is incredibly itchy, ice application every 10 minutes may help. fair warning though, it will be very cold.
Eating a better diet and engaging in stretching exercise can help relax the body and release tension. This can be just the thing you need to ease your pain.