A common complaint is scalp tenderness and is linked with several medical conditions that affect lots of people. Some causes can be migraines, tension headaches, and autoimmune disorders like psoriasis. All of these can cause the scalp to become inflamed, irritated and painful. Sunburns, rashes, wounds and insect bites, can also cause scalp tenderness. Most of these cases will clear up on their own or with some medications, but there can be signs of an underlying condition with others.
Symptoms of scalp tenderness can be defined as pain, inflammation, tingling, numbness, irritation, itching, throbbing or sensitivity of the scalp. These might often occur at the same time, linking the immune processes in response to a variety of conditions. Some tenderness is caused by conditions that affect the blood vessels, nerves and tissues below the scalp. Quite often, no visible symptoms are apparent, but at other times the scalp tenderness is painfully obvious. This can involve peeling, flaking and scaling of the skin.
The prevalence of scalp tenderness is not known, but the tenderness can accompany common conditions such as headaches, allergies, psoriasis, eczema and hair loss. It can be linked with headaches involving the nerves that run from the back of the neck to the forehead. This condition can cause nerves to swell or restrict and can result in pain that moves throughout the head, neck and scalp, and appear as hot, intense, electric-like shocks.
Sometimes the pain is so severe that even a light touch can be painful. Sometimes the scalp will even go numb, even though it is rare and usually caused by injury of a spontaneously pinched nerve.
Some skin conditions that are related to scalp tenderness are:
- Insect bites
- Head lice
These can cause inflammation, pain, tenderness, flaking of the skin, peeling and can even make the scalp bleed or create pus. Another common complaint is dandruff. It affects places of the body where natural oils collect and can cause red, scaly patches on the scalp. Even though not a sign of poor hygiene or disease, many people seek treatment out of irritation or embarrassment. It is rarely caused by fungal infection or ringworm.
Stress, hormones, dry air or cold weather can trigger psoriasis and lead to tenderness and crusting skin. Lichen planus can cause the scalp to flake or scale as well. This is usually brought on by periods of stress or as a side effect of medical treatments.
Other causes of scalp tenderness that affect the skin elsewhere on the body are acne, cysts, infections of the skin cells or hair follicle shafts, viral diseases that cause skin sores such as shingles and measles, tight hairstyles, headbands and helmet, regular or improper use of hair products such as dyes and relaxers and hair dryers, flat irons and curlers. To relieve a tender scalp massage with the fingertips in circular motions, apply ice for 10-minute intervals, use tools to manipulate the scalp and slowly let down hair that has been held in a tight position for a long period. I personally have scalp tenderness when being bothered with sinus problems.
-Dr Fredda Branyon