What Causes My Hair & Scalp to Hurt?


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You may occasionally experience discomfort in your hair or scalp, which might be accompanied by a burning sensation or a sensation that your skin is tight or dry. Many times, scalp and hair pain or tenderness is not serious and goes away on its own. However, if you have persistent scalp pain, hair loss, crusting or bleeding, see your doctor for further evaluation. In the meantime, here are some possible causes of your discomfort.


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Wearing your hair in a tight ponytail, bun, cornrows, or tight braids may cause your scalp to feel tender. You may notice the discomfort when taking your hairstyle out in the evening, after wearing it up all day. Minimize your discomfort by altering your hair styles, to avoid pulling on the same spots on your scalp. Also, avoid hair styles that are very tight or feel like they pull.


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Tension headaches often include the contraction of scalp muscles, which can cause scalp pain and tenderness. Usually the pain starts at the back of the head and gradually moves forward. Tension headaches can be associated with stress, depression, eye strain, holding your head in one position for a long time, grinding your teeth or arthritis. To reduce tension headaches, eat a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep and reduce stress in your life. If the headaches persist or are different from previous see your doctor for evaluation.

Fungal Infections

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One type of fungal infection called ringworm can affect the scalp. The main symptom of ringworm is a circular rash or area of hair loss. If allowed to progress without treatment, you may experience redness, swelling, crusting and pain. To reduce the risk of developing ringworm, avoid sharing hats, brushes and combs with others. If you catch ringworm, see your doctor for medication, and use medicated shampoo to avoid spreading it to others.

Hair Loss

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If you are losing hair due to chemotherapy, childbirth, hormonal changes, or any other reason, you may experience scalp tenderness prior to or at the same time as hair loss. The treatment depends upon the cause of your hair loss. If you are losing hair unexpectedly, see your doctor to rule out serious illnesses.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.