Mayo Clinic Health Library

External compression headaches

Updated: 01-17-2012

Definition

External compression headaches can occur when any head wear puts continuous pressure on your forehead or scalp.

Common culprits of external compression headaches include tight hats, helmets, headbands and goggles. These headaches are sometimes known by other names that are specific to the type of equipment causing your headache, such as "swim-goggle headache" or "football-helmet headache."

With external compression headaches, the solution is as obvious as the cause. Simply remove the head wear causing the pressure.

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Symptoms

The pain of external compression headaches is often described as constant pressure. It hurts most where the object is pressing on your head. As long as the head wear is in place, the pain may get progressively worse.

When to see a doctor
Because compression headaches go away when you remove whatever object is causing the pressure on your head, it's necessary to seek further medical attention only if your headache continues after you've removed the object.

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Causes

External compression headaches are caused by any type of head wear that places pressure on the head — including tight hats, helmets, headbands and goggles.

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Risk factors

External compression headaches can affect anyone who uses head wear.

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Complications

An external compression headache may trigger a migraine in some people if the object causing pressure is kept in place too long.

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Treatments and drugs

To end your headache, remove the head wear that's causing the pressure. Further treatment is rarely needed.

If you have a history of migraines, wearing certain head wear may trigger an attack that requires migraine medication for relief.

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Prevention

To prevent external compression headaches, skip head wear. If head wear is unavoidable, make sure it fits properly and is positioned carefully. Try various styles and sizes as you look for the most comfortable options. Also, if possible, try to temporarily take off head wear frequently to remove the pressure.

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