Pulsating Headache

Updated: November 27th, 2017

Do You Feel a Pulsating Pain?

Do you experience throbbing headaches, also known as pounding headaches or pulsating headaches? These painful, distracting headaches can make it difficult for you to manage your day-to-day activities at work and home. They often are very resistant to common “over the counter” headache medicines.

The truth is, there are many types of headache.

Each type suggests a different underlying cause. It’s often the case that, when the underlying issue is treated, the headache goes away for good. However, this requires a professional diagnosis by true headache experts.

Headache pains can be of different types and vary in duration and severity. Among them, a throbbing/pulsating headache can feel especially disabling. Unlike other headaches where the pain is only a mild, nagging one and daily routine is not altogether affected, pulsating headaches are much worse. They force the individual to stop all activity and lie down to rest till the pain goes away.

Pulsating Headache— Which One Is Mine?

A pulsating or throbbing headache is enough to bring life to a standstill and make you feel miserable for as long as it lasts. The pain is a pounding, explosive sensation in the head that may affect all or just a portion of the head. What makes it worse is that the pain can extend to the neck, arms, eyes and facial muscles as well. Some may get the headache due to food allergies. Sometimes staring at the computer for too long can be the trigger. Loud noise, caffeine withdrawal, hangovers and stress can all be causes of a pulsating headache.

What Causes These Throbbing Headaches?

A throbbing headache produces pain that noticeably ebbs and flows in rhythm with the sufferer’s heartbeat. This headache can arise suddenly and unexpectedly in someone who has no history of regular headaches. There are many potential causes, and some suggest a serious medical issue. Some possible causes include:

Caffeine Withdrawal

In many cases, throbbing pain is created by the dilation or constriction of blood vessels in the head or neck. This can be caused by ingesting caffeine or–hours to many days later–the body recovering from caffeine’s effects. Pain caused by caffeine withdrawal generally manifests near the front of the head.

Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions to foodstuffs, airborne allergens and more can cause pulsating headaches. Headaches centered low in the front of the head suggest that sinus pressure is to blame. However, you also should check for rash or other symptoms that suggest a different, potentially unfamiliar allergen.

Venous Malformation in the Brain

Vascular damage in and around the cranium and brain may cause persistent headaches of many kinds, but throbbing pain is common. Special diagnostic imaging tests are used to uncover this issue. They pinpoint the position of veins and capillaries that appear “swollen” or malformed.


A migraine is a constellation of symptoms with a chronic, severe headache at the center. The pain can come on suddenly and may include seeing an “aura” or “halo,” plus sensitivity to light and sound. Dozens of different medical conditions can cause migraine, but it also can appear alone. Many sufferers find they have a family history of migraines.

Types & Causes of Pulsating Headaches

  • Tension Headaches: This is often a dull headache that starts at the back of the head and then extends to the rest of the head. It occurs due to muscle tension felt in the scalp, neck and shoulder. It is related to underlying stress and generally occurs in people who stare at the computer and work for a long time keeping the same position.
  • Migraine: Pulsating headache is one of the most common symptoms of a migraine. Like in the case of most headaches, the exact cause behind the pain is unknown but the trigger is likely to be some irregular activity in the brain. Migraines are more common among women than men, and can be hereditary. These headaches are accompanied with vomiting, nausea, and light and noise sensitivity.
  • Cluster Headaches: Pulsating headaches are common with cluster headaches. Not only are they quite painful, they can last for months together. The pain is sudden and is felt on one side of the head. Smokers and drinkers are most prone to cluster headaches.
  • Sinus Infections: Pulsating headaches can also be a symptom of sinus infections that affect the front of the head.

More often than not, pulsating headaches are only a result of the above few conditions and can be cured or reduced with a treatment plan. However, if the headache is recurrent and medicines do not seem to be working, it is important to check for more serious secondary causes such as meningitis, stroke or brain tumor. This is a rare thing to happen, however, it is best to rule out any possibility of an underlying ailment.

If You Suffer From Pulsating or Chronic Headaches, It’s Time to Get a Diagnosis

Lying with one’s eyes closed in a dark room can help get rid of the headache. Massaging the neck and scalp area can also bring relief. Over-the counter medicines are safe and effective as long as you do not take them too often. Following a healthy lifestyle with exercise and a good diet go a long way in keeping headaches at bay.

Do you experience painful headaches two or more days a week? Have you noticed new headaches appearing more than two days a week for the last two weeks? In either case, accurate diagnosis is critical to long-term wellness. With the right treatment, you can alleviate headache pain and may be able to arrest the underlying cause before it gets worse.

At National Headache Institute, our experts use cutting-edge technology to uncover undiagnosed problems that might be the root cause of headache. Each one of our patients receives a customized treatment plan to fully and effectively address the real issues. In many cases, it is possible to completely eliminate headaches at the source. This outcome even can be true for sufferers of severe and chronic migraines.

The National Headache Institute has gained its reputation as one of the premier medical facilities treating a variety of headaches. Our focus is on precise and expert headache diagnosis that enables us to offer the most effective treatment options. Do not ignore your pulsating headache symptoms.

Let us help you. Call us or use our contact form to book a consultation.

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