What to know about frontal lobe headaches
Pain in the front of the head is sometimes described as a frontal lobe headache.
According to the National Institute of Health, more than 9 out of 10 people will experience a headache at some point. Headaches are among the most common reasons for visiting a doctor or missing work or school.
In this article, we look at types of headache that can cause pain in the front of the head. We discuss causes, symptoms, means of prevention, treatment options, and when to see a doctor.
What is frontal head pain?
A headache can cause pain anywhere in the head, but a frontal lobe headache tends to cause pain in areas such as the forehead and temples.
In spite of the name, a frontal lobe headache is rarely related to that part of the brain, and it is not a condition in itself. Pain in the front of the head is usually a symptom of another type of headache.
Five headaches that cause frontal head pain
Each of the headaches listed below is likely to cause pain in the front of the head.
1. Tension headache
A tension headache may begin with a pain in the forehead or the temples.
A tension headache is the most common type of headache. Most people will experience one from time to time.
These headaches have the following symptoms:
- a dull, constant ache that can be felt throughout the head
- pain that often begins in the forehead, temples, or behind the eyes
- tenderness around the head, scalp, face, neck, and shoulders
- a sensation of tightness or pressure, as though a belt is being tightened around the head
The severity of tension headaches can range from mild to severe.
They typically last between 30 minutes and several hours but can persist for days. They may also occur on multiple days within a month.
Pain from tension headaches can often be relieved by taking over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin. The following may also be helpful:
- having a massage
- gently exercising the neck
- taking a hot shower
- placing a hot towel or wash cloth on the forehead or neck
See a doctor for severe or persistent headaches. Experiencing tension headaches more than 15 times a month is considered chronic, and a person should consult a doctor. Chronic cases are sometimes managed with amitriptyline.
2. Eye strain
Eye strain may also result in frontal headaches. A headache caused by eye strain may feel similar to a tension headache. They are typically caused by uncorrected vision or astigmatism in one or both eyes.
Eye strain can have a number of causes:
- prolonged visual tasks, such as reading or using a computer
- extended periods of concentration
- bad posture
People with eye strain headaches should see an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) for an eye test. If defective eyesight is the cause, a person may require glasses or contact lenses.
The following may also help with eye strain:
- taking regular breaks from visually demanding tasks
- practicing good posture when sitting at a desk
- stretching the neck, arms, and back
- using an anti-glare filter for computer screens
3. Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are rare and can be extremely painful. Pain is typically felt on one side of the head, often around the eye, temple, or forehead.
These headaches usually begin without warning, and they can last for several hours. A person may experience more than one of these headaches a day.
Other symptoms of cluster headaches include:
- feeling restless or agitated
- nasal discharge
- a blocked nose
- a watering or swollen eye
Successions of cluster headaches can go on for weeks or months. They tend to occur around the same times and often wake people up.
The cause of cluster headaches is not well understood, but they may run in families. Alcohol and smoking can trigger attacks.
People experiencing cluster headaches should speak to a doctor. Treatment options include:
- calcium channel blockers
- oxygen therapy
4 Sinus headaches
Sinusitis may cause frontal head pain.
The sinuses can become inflamed by an infection or allergic reaction, which is known as sinusitis.
The swelling of the sinuses can result in a frontal headache and tenderness around the forehead, cheeks, and eyes.
Sinus headaches are characterized by:
- a dull, throbbing ache
- pain that may be aggravated by head movements
- nasal discharge
- a blocked nose
- a toothache
People often have sinusitis following a cold or the flu. It usually clears up by itself.
To relieve the associated congestion, a person can use a salt water solution to clear the nostrils or inhale steam from a bowl of hot water.
Management of sinusitis depends on the cause:
- For a cold or flu, a person can use OTC nasal decongestants and painkillers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- For a bacterial infection, a doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.
- For an allergy, a doctor may recommend an antihistamine.
A doctor might also provide a corticosteroid nasal spray to relieve swelling. In some cases, it may be necessary to refer a person with sinusitis to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
See a doctor if sinusitis persists for longer than a week or gets worse.
5. Giant cell arteritis
Giant cell arteritis — also known as temporal arteritis — is condition in which the blood vessels located toward the outside of the head become inflamed.
It is characterized by severe, recurrent headaches, and pain and tenderness around the temples.
Other symptoms include:
- pain when chewing or talking
- loss of vision
- weight loss
- muscle aches
Giant cell arteritis is uncommon among people under 50. It is a serious condition and should be managed by a doctor as soon as possible. This will usually involve a corticosteroid, such as prednisolone.
Getting enough sleep may help to prevent or reduce the frequency of headaches.
Certain lifestyle changes can help to prevent or reduce the frequency of headaches. These include:
- Getting enough sleep. Try to go to sleep and wake up at regular times. Resist the urge to oversleep on the weekends. Most adults require 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Engaging in regular physical activity. Exercise several times a week, to reduce stress and keep fit.
- Improving posture. Sit up straight and ensure that the lower back is properly supported. Avoid sitting in the same position for too long. Stretch and take regular breaks from desks and computers.
- Moderating caffeine intake. Too much caffeine can cause headaches, as can quitting suddenly, particularly if a person has habitually consumed large amounts of caffeine.
- Drinking plenty of water. Dehydration can cause headaches.
- Avoiding frequent use of painkillers. Managing headaches with painkillers on more than 15 days a month can cause headaches, due to overuse of medication. See a doctor about preventative care.
Therapies and activities that aid in relaxation or manage pain and stress may also help to prevent headaches. These include:
- spinal manipulation performed by professionals, such as chiropractors
- meditation and breathing exercises
- yoga and tai chi
- cognitive behavioral therapy
It may be a good idea to keep a headache diary to identify possible triggers.
Common triggers for headaches include:
- certain activities
Many types of headache can cause pain in the front of the head. In most cases, this pain is the result of a tension headache.
Consult a doctor about persistent, worsening or very severe headaches.