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Scalp Tenderness: Learn How to Get Rid of a Tender Scalp

scalp tendernessScalp tenderness, discomfort, and other concerns may manifest through a variety of symptoms such as pain, itchiness, numbness, irritation, or sensitivity.

These symptoms can be linked to migraines or autoimmune disorders.

Typically scalp issues resolve themselves naturally or can be treated with medication, but sometimes there is an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed.

This article serves to provide information pertaining to scalp health, including scalp tenderness, as well as potential remedies.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Scalp Tenderness?

Typically, people experience a variation of multiple symptoms pertaining to scalp discomfort inflammation, numbness, itching, or sensitivity. Symptoms are most commonly related to an immune process which develop due to an underlying condition.

Other times the scalp discomfort can be related to conditions pertaining to the blood vessel, nerves, and/or tissues around the scalp. For some people, it is apparent that there is a scalp issue, while others experience no indicators.

The percentage of people who struggle with this issue is unknown but scalp concerns can partner with other conditions such as hair loss, allergies, or headaches.

Origin of Scalp Tenderness

There are multiple causes or conditions that result in scalp discomfort. Some women may experience headaches where the pain is felt from the forehead to the back of the neck.

Women may also experience a condition where the nerves are restricted or there is swelling which can cause pain through the entire head and down the neck. Some people have described the nerve related scalp pain as a feeling similar to “electric shocks” according to John Hopkins University.

For some women, their scalp is extremely sensitive where the lightest touch can cause numbness or severe pain. People who experience these symptoms have typically been severely injured or they’ve pinched a nerve suddenly.

Some other frequent conditions that are related to scalp discomfort are sunburn, rashes, bug bites, head lice, or psoriasis. With these conditions not only is pain experienced, but there may be flaking of the skin, inflammation and in rare cases bleeding and pus.

Conditions most likely to cause skin flaking on the scalp include dandruff, psoriasis, and lichen planus.

Dandruff is not caused by a hygiene issue and there is treatment widely available such as medicated washes or shampoos. In rare instances, dandruff can be caused by a fungal infection or ringworm.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease and it can lead to scalp pain and flaking of the skin. The difference between dandruff and psoriasis is that with psoriasis the skin is drier and has a silver-like appearance.

Psoriasis can be triggered by extreme cold or dry air, stress, or hormonal shifts. Stress or medication side effects can cause lichen planus which is a condition where the scalp will flake.

Does Hair Loss Cause Scalp Pain?

Hair loss is usually not painful unless your hair is being pulled out by its follicles. So, hair loss is not directly associated with scalp pain. 

Many of the conditions listed above have the ability to cause hair loss; this is known as alopecia. Hair loss may or may not be permanent depending on the severity of the hair follicle damage.

Alopecia areata is known through the characteristics of scalp discomfort and hair patchiness from hair falling out in clumps. Hair may also fall out from other regions of the body and is not limited to the scalp.

Alopecia totalis is the condition where all hair is lost from the head and alopecia universalis is the condition where all hair on the body is lost.

The National Institute of Health assures that most of the time hair loss should not cause concern as it is not detrimental to health.

Hair loss is typically the result of immune cells targeting hair follicles, but there are many other factors that can cause hair loss such as a diet without much protein and iron, lupus, thyroid issues such as hyperthyroidism, and chemotherapy treatment.

Hair loss can also be experienced by women at postpartum, menopause, or during hormone therapies.

How to Identify Hair and Scalp Conditions and Their Causes

To diagnose a scalp condition, you will likely need to take a few visits to the doctor collecting pertinent background information such as diet, routine, stressors, injuries, or any recent changes in lifestyle.

Doctors may also inspect and take samples of your hair or scalp for assessment purposes. If there is hair loss throughout the body, doctor’s may also examine body hair patterns.

Remedies for Scalp Tenderness

Most scalp conditions will resolve on their own or require minimal medical attention. There are hair products available to alleviate the discomfort such as ointments, antiseptics, and dressing materials.

Someone who is experiencing prolonged scalp discomfort should see a physician for testing a diagnosis as there may be an underlying condition.

Typically, when the underlying condition is treated, scalp discomfort is alleviated. There are many different avenues for treating symptoms and managing discomfort and the physician will review the best options for each case.

Medicated shampoos and conditions are common treatments. Other treatments include minoxidil and laser devices which are over the counter treatments within the United States. 

Finasteride has been shown to slow down hair loss and corticosteroids are prescribed for general purposes. If treatment is ineffective, it is important to talk with the physician for further options.

If medication is not immediately available, people can utilize the following techniques to alleviate some discomfort: (a) use fingertips and massage in a circular motion over painful area, (b) place an ice pack on affected area for 10-minute intervals, (c) utilizing tools designed to alleviate scalp pain, (d) let the down hair that has been held up tightly, (e) stretching and relaxation techniques.

How to Treat Scalp Tenderness

To reduce the risk of scalp conditions be sure to limit sun exposure, avoid hair damaging chemicals or dyes, and practice stress relieving techniques often to avoid intense stress. Do not share hair ties and brushes as these are common ways that contagious infections such as lice or fungus are passed.

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