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Why is my scalp painful after my headaches?

Understanding Scalp Allodynia: What You Need to Know

If you suffer from headaches or migraines, you may have experienced a condition called scalp allodynia. Scalp allodynia is a condition where the scalp becomes sensitive to touch and may cause pain or discomfort even with light touch, brushing or washing of hair.

While scalp allodynia can be a distressing symptom, it is important to know that it is not uncommon in people who suffer from headaches or migraines. In fact, research shows that up to 70% of people with chronic migraines experience scalp allodynia.

So, what exactly is scalp allodynia, and what can you expect if you experience it? Here’s what you need to know.

Up to 70% of people with chronic migraines experience scalp allodynia

What is Scalp Allodynia?

Scalp allodynia is a type of neuropathic pain that occurs when the nerves in the scalp become hypersensitive. Normally, touch or pressure on the scalp should not cause pain or discomfort. However, with scalp allodynia, even gentle touch, such as running a brush through your hair, can trigger pain or discomfort.

Scalp allodynia is a common symptom of migraine and is thought to be related to the same underlying mechanisms that cause migraine pain. However, it can also occur in other types of headaches or as a side effect of certain medications.

What Are the Symptoms of Scalp Allodynia?

The most common symptom of scalp allodynia is pain or discomfort in response to touch or pressure on the scalp. This can include brushing or washing your hair, wearing a hat, or even lying down on a pillow.

In addition to pain or discomfort, scalp allodynia may also cause a tingling or burning sensation in the scalp.

What Should You Do If You Experience Scalp Allodynia?

If you experience scalp allodynia, it is important to discuss it with your healthcare provider or a headache Neurologist who is a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. They can help determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

While scalp allodynia is a common symptom of migraine, it can also be a sign of other underlying medical conditions. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience any of the following "red flag" symptoms:

  • Sudden onset of severe headache

  • Headache accompanied by fever or neck stiffness

  • Changes in vision or speech

  • Weakness or numbness in the face or limbs

  • Headaches that are getting progressively worse over time

What Treatments Are Available for Scalp Allodynia?

The treatment of scalp allodynia depends on the underlying cause. If it is related to migraines, your neurologist may recommend medications such as triptans, CGRP inhibitors, or other therapies.

Non-pharmacological options for scalp allodynia include relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises. You can also try avoiding triggers that may cause migraines such as bright lights, loud noises, or certain foods.

If you experience scalp allodynia, don't hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider or headache Neurologist. With proper diagnosis and treatment, you can find relief from your symptoms and get back to enjoying your daily activities.


The Headache Clinic is a specialised headache clinic based in North Sydney that offers both in-clinic and telehealth appointment consultations with trained headache neurologists. Our team of experts can help diagnose and treat your condition, providing you with the best care possible.

We can provide squeeze-in appointments within one week.

Whether you are experiencing scalp allodynia or any other headache or migraine symptoms, The Headache Clinic can help you get the right assessment and advice. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

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