Why Does Your Head Feels Heavy?

Many people complain that their head feels heavy and that heavy head feeling can be frustrating.

In fact, up to 90% of individuals will suffer from this feeling at some point in their life.(1,2)

Some people report that head feels detached from the body and they can barely hold their head up, while others say it feels like a heavy, tight band around their head.

In many cases, these cases of the heavy head feeling are isolated and never happen again, or it may be mild.

However, they have the potential to be cause for concern if they occur regularly or the heavy head is severe.

Here is a closer look at the potential causes of this feeling, the signs and symptoms, and diagnosis and treatment of this condition.


What Can Cause Heaviness In The Head?

When your head feels heavy, there are several different problems that could be causing this weird sensation in head.(3)

Some of the potential causes include the following:


1) Fatigue

Fatigue is a potential cause of the heavy head feeling, and while many people deal with temporary fatigue, an unrelenting exhaustion that is not relieved with rest is considered fatigue.

More than one million Americans suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.(4)

When fatigue becomes a constant state, reducing concentration, motivation, and energy, it is possible for it to begin to impact an individual’s psychological and emotional wellbeing.

In many cases, fatigue traces back to routines or habits, such as lack of exercise, although it is often related to depression as well.

Other conditions that may cause fatigue and that feeling of a heavy head include;(5,6)

» anemia – in some cases can cause heaviness in head (7)

» chronic kidney disease – causes headaches in later stages (8)

» cancer – the growing tumor increases the pressure inside the skull (Intracranial pressure) (9)

» liver failure – symptoms may include confusion, weakness, disorientation…(10)

» Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) –  may cause drowsiness and headaches (11)

» heart disease – heart attack symptoms, lightheadedness and dizziness, can cause pressure and discomfort in head (12)

» obesity – is associated with frequent headaches (13)

» dehydration – can lead to dizziness and heaviness in the head  (14)

» Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) – symptoms could include a headache, trouble thinking, and dizziness  (15)


2) Migraine

It is also possible for a migraine to make you feel like your head feels heavy.

Migraine statistics provided by migraine.com, estimate that 13 percent of adults in the United States have migraines and almost 5 million experience at least one migraine attack per month.(16)

Migraines are a type of a headache that has the potential to cause significant pain, and they may be preceded by sensory warning symptoms, including tingling in the legs or arms, flashes of light, or blind spots.

While it is unclear what the exact causes of migraines are, studies show that environmental factors and genetic factors play a role.(17)

Common migraine triggers include;

» stress

» changes in sleeping patterns

» hormonal changes

» drinking

» certain foods

» sensory stimuli

» environmental changes

» and certain medications

Potential Causes heavy head feeling


3) Vertigo

Some people who experience vertigo also feel like their head is very heavy.

According to Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D. “vertigo usually occurs as a result of a disorder in the vestibular system.”(18)

Vertigo often occurs when an individual moves the position of his head, such as sitting up in bed or tipping the head down or up.

In many cases, there are no known causes for vertigo, although it is often associated with disorders that cause damage to the inner ear.


4) Anxiety and Tension Headaches

A very common cause of the heavy head feeling is anxiety.

In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.(19)

It many cases, anxiety results in the occurrence of tension headaches, which can leave you feeling like your head is heavy or like a tight band is around the head.

This is a very common type of a headache, although the causes of this type of a headache are not well understood.

According to Calm Clinic, some anxiety medications can actually lead to head pressure.(20)

Also, exposure to sunlight may trigger a summer tension headaches.(21)


5) Eye pressure & Glaucoma

According to the National Eye Institute, “Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness.”(22)

Not every person with increased eye pressure will develop glaucoma.

Some of the symptoms could be;

» a cloudy vision

» nausea

» pressure

» tightness and pain around your eyes.


6) Menopause

According to avogel.co.uk, ” the main characteristic of menopausal headaches are feeling of tightness or mild pain across the forehead and back of the head and neck.”(23)

Article printed in the Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School claims that another menopause symptom is hot flashes, which probably begin in the hypothalamus (section of the brain that controls body temperature), and could lead to feelings of anxiety and tension.(24)


7) Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

OSA is a sleep disorder caused by full or partial obstructions of the upper airway.

Dr. Larry M. Wolford, DMD, suggest that the most common individuals who suffer from OSA also suffer from obesity, with specific heaviness in the head and neck area.(25)

In the United States, at least 25 million adults suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. (26)


8) Thyroid Problems

An underactive thyroid (Hypothyroidism) is a disorder  in which your thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone.

Forgetfulness, headaches, and brain fog are among usual symptoms of an underactive thyroid.(27,28)


9) Spinal Cord Compression

According to Dr. Kokil Mathur ” The symptoms of heaviness in your head could be due to compression of the spinal nerves in the cervical spine region.

This could be due to overuse of computers, work involving straining of neck, herniated disc, canal stenosis, bone disease, spondylosis, poor posture etc…” (29)


Signs and Symptoms

When your head feels heavy, you will often find that this feeling comes with other signs and symptoms that can help you figure out what the underlying cause of the problem is.

Depending on whether you are dealing with a migraine, vertigo, tension headaches, or fatigue, the symptoms may vary.

If fatigue is the underlying cause of your heavy head, you may notice that you feel exhausted.

However, this is not a temporary feeling – it is a constant feeling of weariness that leaves you with little energy.

You may also notice that it is difficult to concentrate or get motivated.

When migraines are the cause of the heavy head feeling, multiple other symptoms usually come with the heavy head.

During migraines, it is common to deal with pain on just one side of the head or on both sides of the head.

The pain usually is throbbing or pulsating.

Migraines often come with sensitivity to smells, sounds, and light.

Some individuals deal with nausea and vomiting, and blurry vision and lightheadedness may occur as well.

Along with feeling like you have a heavy head, vertigo may leave you feeling dizzy or like everything around you is moving or spinning.

Unsteadiness and loss of balance are also very common.

Some people even experience nausea and vomiting with vertigo.

Tension headaches may leave your head feeling like it’s very heavy, but they also come with aching, dull pain in the head.

You may feel pressure or tightness on the back and sides of the head or across the forehead.

Tenderness of the shoulder muscles, neck muscles, or scalp may occur with tension headaches as well.

When anxiety accompanies the tension headaches and heavy head, other symptoms may include;(30)

» diarrhea

» dizziness

» irritability

» heart palpitations

» shaking

» sweating

» and restlessness


Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment head feels heavyIf your head feels heavy and this is a problem you are dealing with regularly, it’s important to make sure the underlying condition is treated.

You can start by seeing your primary care physician.

Tell your physician about the heavy headedness and be sure to inform your physician about any other symptoms that you experience along with this problem.

Your primary care doctor may refer you to an experienced neurologist who may test you for migraines and brain abnormalities.

Of course, the treatment for the heavy head will depend on the root cause of the problem.

To determine if you are dealing with migraines or a more serious problem, a doctor may order blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scans, or even a spinal tap.

If you are diagnosed with migraines, there is no cure, although the condition can be managed.

You may be prescribed preventive medications to reduce the frequency or severity of migraines.

Pain relievers or triptans may be prescribed for you to help treat migraines when they occur.

To diagnose vertigo, which could be the root cause of your heavy head feeling, your doctor will do a physical examination.

Other testing may be done, including MRIs or an electronystagmography.

Vertigo may be treated with canalith repositioning procedures or if this procedure is not effective, surgical intervention may prove helpful.

If you are dealing with chronic tension headaches along with the feeling of a heavy head, your physician may conduct both neurological and physical exams to ensure that you are really having tension headaches and to find the cause of the headaches.

Your doctor may ask you about the intensity of the pain, pain characteristics, location of the pain, and other symptoms you have with a headache and heavy head.

Depending on the exam and your answers, other tests may be performed.

Various over the counter medications are often recommended for tension headaches and the accompanying heavy head feeling.

This may include;(31)




and aspirin

For those who have frequent tension headaches, particularly those who also experience anxiety, preventive medications may be prescribed, such as tricyclic antidepressants, other types of antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and anticonvulsants.(32)

However, it often takes a few weeks for these medications to build up in the system so they begin working.


Home Remedies For Heaviness In Head

Some suggested natural remedies by Simple Remedies are: (33)

» Lime juice with ginger (the refreshing properties of lime juice with ginger make this an ideal tasty beverage)

» Eat a healthy diet with lots of fiber (fiber helps you to lose weight and improve your health)

» Blinking the eyes more often (is a natural way to maintaining healthy eyes)

» Drinking turmeric (provides many health benefits) (check price on amazon.com)

» Meditation (relaxes you)

You should also;

» Avoid air-conditioners and Monosodium glutamate (used in the food industry as a flavor enhancer, can trigger migraines or other types of headaches) (34)

» Drink lots of warm water and eat a lot of leafy green vegetables

» Gently massage your temples


In addition, you can also do some type of physical activity (for example, tai chi, yoga or just take a swim).

Tai Chi exercises are great to relieve stress and tension from the body, and Yoga can have a positive impact on your mental health.

Try Reiki! Reiki is soothing and healing. A peacefulness will literally pass over the person as they are in their Reiki session.

Stretching can help ease head pressure and it’s particularly useful solution because you can do stretches anywhere.


When to See a Doctor

When your head feels heavy, a variety of different conditions could be the underlying cause of the problem.

While an isolated incident is nothing to worry about, if you regularly deal with this symptom, it is important to discuss it with a physician.

Write down what you were doing when you started feeling heavy headed and also note any other symptoms you experienced along with the heavy head feeling.

Following some healthy living habits, along with understanding your personal triggers can go a long way to help reduce the onset and severity of your problem.

Take this information with you to your physician.

Together you and your physician can work to find the underlying cause of the problem so it can be treated effectively.

Further reading