Pressure in the temples can be a symptom of a headache or migraine episode. It can also result from stress, blocked sinuses, or tension extending from elsewhere in the body.
If a person experiences persistent pressure in the temples, this may indicate an underlying health issue.
This article explores possible causes of pressure in the temples, as well as symptoms, treatment options, and when to see a doctor.
Tension headaches can result from stress or muscle tension.
Symptoms of a tension headache include:
- pain that can last for
a few hours to several days
- tight pressure, which may feel as though a band or vice is squeezing the head
- pain that may radiate from the neck to the head
A person may be able to treat a tension headache with over-the-counter pain relief medication, relaxation, and stress management.
If muscle tension is creating a feeling of pressure in the face and temples, try:
- a heated compress
- a warm bath
Migraine can cause moderate or severe head pain, including pressure in the temples.
The exact cause of migraine is unknown. However, the medical community recognizes a number of triggers, such as:
- hormonal changes
- emotional triggers, including depression or anxiety
- tiredness and lack of sleep
- some foods, including chocolate and cheese
- coffee or alcohol
- environmental triggers, including flickering screens, stuffy rooms, and loud noises
- certain medications, including sleeping pills, contraceptive pills, and hormone replacement therapies
Symptoms of migraine include:
- pain on one side of the head
- pulsing or throbbing sensations
- increased sensitivity to light and sound
A migraine headache may worsen with physical activity and can last a few hours to several days.
A doctor may prescribe antimigraine medication for people who have frequent or severe migraine episodes.
A cervicogenic headache is a type of headache related to a disorder of the cervical spine.
The cervical spine is the top part of the spine, which includes the neck and back of the head.
Problems with the cervical spine that can cause cervicogenic headaches include:
Along with pressure in the temples, symptoms of this type of headache include:
- a reduced range of motion in the neck
- a headache that worsens with certain neck movements
- pain on one side of the head
- pain that spreads from the back of the head or neck to the front of the head, possibly behind the eyes
A doctor can use nerve blocks to treat cervicogenic headaches. Nerve blocks, which are usually injected, can numb the cervical spine, relieving pain.
In addition, massage may help relax the soft tissues in the neck and reduce the occurrence of headaches. Exercise and physical therapy can also help treat cervicogenic headaches.
Infection and inflammation of the sinuses can cause pressure in the forehead and temples.
Other symptoms of these sinus issues include:
- a blocked nose
- a cough
- yellow or green discharge from the nose
- a toothache
- mucus running down the back of the throat
In most cases, sinus infections and inflammation clear up without prescription medication. Over-the-counter pain relievers and decongestants can help clear the sinuses and relieve symptoms.
If a bacterial infection is causing the inflammation, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat it.
Temporal arteritis can cause persistent pain in the temples. It happens when arteries at the sides of the head become inflamed.
A person with this condition may experience:
- severe, throbbing pain in the temples
- a fever
- unintentional weight loss
- a loss of appetite
- a feeling of tenderness in the scalp
- an aching in the jaw while chewing
A doctor will prescribe a course of steroids to treat temporal arteritis.
Bacterial meningitis can cause a sudden headache and pressure in the temples.
Other symptoms include:
- increased sensitivity to light
- a fever
- stiffness in the neck
In newborns and young children, symptoms can vary. Look out for:
- inactivity or slowness
- a change in appetite
- a bulge on the top of the head
A doctor will treat bacterial meningitis with antibiotics. Also, there are vaccinations for this condition.
Various types of headache can result from a head injury. A person may, for example, experience throbbing or stabbing pain at the back of the head.
A person may also feel pressure, which may develop within 7 days of the injury. The pressure may be dull, aching, or taut, and it may affect any part of the head, including the temples.
When a headache results from a mild head injury, get plenty of rest. Eating healthfully, getting quality sleep, and reducing the intake of caffeine can also help.
Use caution when taking medications for headaches and follow instructions on labeling.
Temporomandibular joint and muscle (TMJ) disorders cause pain in the jaw and surrounding area. They can also cause pressure in the face, temples, and neck.
Beyond trauma to the jaw, researchers are unsure what causes TMJ disorders.
Symptoms of TMJ disorders include:
- a stiff jaw, with restricted movement
- grinding the teeth, while awake or asleep
- pain when opening or closing the mouth
- a clicking, grating, or locking of the jaw
- the upper and lower teeth not fitting together as usual
The most common TMJ disorders are temporary, and people can treat them with over-the-counter pain relief medication. Some people benefit from dental devices that keep the jaw from clenching.
In rare cases, persistent pressure in the temples can indicate a brain tumor if a person also experiences other characteristic symptoms.
- tingling or stiffness on one side of the body
- balance problems
- changes in vision
- confusion or memory loss
- difficulty communicating
- feeling disorientated
- changes in personality
Treatment for a brain tumor depends on the type, size, and location of the tumor.
Treatment options may include:
Anyone with persistent pressure in the temples should see a healthcare professional.
A person should also see a doctor if they have any of the following:
- a continuous headache in one part of the head
- severe head pain that comes on very suddenly
- a change in headache frequency or type
- an existing medical condition alongside frequent or severe head pain
If people notice any signs of meningitis, they should seek medical attention right away.
People experience pressure in the temples for a variety of reasons. If stress or tension is causing this pressure, relaxation and lifestyle changes may help relieve it.
If pressure in the temples is persistent, or if severe pain or other symptoms accompany it, see a doctor.