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Close-up of a woman suffering from a headache

Throbbing Headache


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

Throbbing Headache

What is a throbbing headache?

A throbbing headache is a sensation of pounding, pulsating, rhythmic, or explosive pressure in the head. It can affect all or just a portion of your head. The sensation of pain is subjective, meaning that each person experiences it differently. Some people may describe a throbbing headache as also being sharp, dull, burning or squeezing in nature.

Throbbing headaches are very common and can affect people of any age group or population. Throbbing headaches are often associated with migraine headaches, caffeine withdrawal, and hangovers. However, you may also feel a throbbing headache with a wide variety of other conditions, such as a stress headache, cluster headache, or inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis). In some cases, a throbbing headache may be caused by serious conditions, such as stroke, meningitis, a brain mass (tumor), or bleeding in the brain from a head injury.

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Ongoing throbbing headaches that are severe or recur, such as migraine or cluster headaches, can often be managed successfully with regular medical care and by following your treatment plan.


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Seek prompt medical care for throbbing headaches that are unexplained, persistent, recurring, or occurring with sinus congestion or fever.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, experience a head injury or have an unexplained or sudden severe headache, change in vision or level of alertness, passing out, paralysis, difficulty speaking, or a seizure.

Seek immediate medicalcare (call 911) for infants and young children who are unable to communicate and experience a head injury or trauma in which the head is shaken. Symptoms may include vomiting with drowsiness or lethargy, or a bulging soft spot on top of the head (fontanel).

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 14, 2016

© 2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. My Headache. National Headache Foundation.
  2. Hydrocephalus Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  3. Migraine. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH.
  4. Migraine Headache. JAMA Patient Page.
  5. NINDS Migraine Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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