Why Does My Head Feel Heavy?

Feeling under the weather can be debilitating, especially when it lingers around your head. 

It is not uncommon to feel head heaviness, whether sick or healthy. People use “head feels heavy” to describe many unwell feelings. 

In this article, we shall see what head heaviness means, why your head might feel heavy, relevant diseases you should know, and ways to tackle them.

What does a heavy head feel like?

“Head feels heavy” is a vague description. When people complain of a feeling of heaviness in their head, they may intend to express:

  • Their head or neck is painful
  • They feel pressure or tightness in the face or any part of the head
  • They feel dizzy or giddy
  • Their brain is foggy, and they cannot think properly

If you have a heavy head, your doctor will likely ask more questions about your head’s heaviness to pinpoint the closest symptom, which can lead to a diagnosis.

Why does my head feel heavy?

The reasons for your head to feel heavy are broad. They can be problems from a single organ or body part or a systemic issue that affects the whole body. Here, we discuss some of its most common causes.

Low blood pressure (hypotension) and sugar (hypoglycemia)

An ideal blood pressure number should be 90-120 for the upper value (systolic pressure) and 60-80 for the lower value (diastolic pressure). 

Therefore, you are considered hypotensive when your blood pressure is lower than 90/60 mmHg. Sudden alteration in position, hormonal changes, anemia, or infections are reasons one can have hypotension.

Blood pressure drives our blood flow. Low blood pressure makes it difficult for our blood to reach vital organs, such as the brain. 

Insufficient blood flow deprives the brain of oxygen, causing feelings of dizziness, pressure, head heaviness, nausea, and blurred vision. 

Similar to low blood pressure, when you have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), the brain fails to receive glucose, fuels that enable our body cells to work properly. Your head thus feels heavy.

Headache Disorders

Headache is a symptom commonly referred to as head heaviness. There is a broad spectrum of headaches, collectively known as headache disorders. 

The American Academy of Family Physicians classifies them into two groups: 

  • Primary headaches, which include tension-type headaches, migraine headaches, cluster headaches, and headaches related to autonomic nervous system reactions (trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias)
  • Secondary headaches, which include all headaches with identifiable causes, such as infections, brain vessel inflammation, high pressure in the head, or brain tumors.

According to studies from the American Headache Society, 1 out of every 6 Americans and 1 in 5 women experience severe headaches or migraine regularly. 

While people with migraine headaches often experience throbbing-like pain in the head, tension headaches make you feel like your head is being squeezed hard, tight, and dull. All these can make you feel your head is heavier than usual. 

Eyes problems (vision disturbance)

Eye symptoms like blurry vision, light sensitivity, eye redness, and watery eyes can make your head feel heavy. 

The underlying diseases are many. The most common ones are short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hypermetropia), astigmatism, and eye infections. 

Other than making you feel head heaviness, vision disturbance also causes dizziness and headaches.

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Nose and upper respiratory tract problems (sinusitis, rhinitis, and upper respiratory tract infection)

Sinuses are air-filled cavities around the nose, eyes, and forehead. When sinuses are inflamed (sinusitis) due to infections or allergies, discharge starts to accumulate in these cavities. This makes your head feel heavy, painful, and pressured. 

Other symptoms of sinusitis include pain in your face, nasal stuffiness, yellow or green nasal discharge, coughing, burning sensation in the eyes, and fever.

Meanwhile, rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal mucosa) can cause symptoms similar to sinusitis. One common type of rhinitis is allergic rhinitis. 

In 2018, allergic rhinitis caused 7 million clinic visits in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

People with rhinitis often have sinusitis too. These two allergy-related conditions are collectively called rhinosinusitis, a major reason why your head feels heavy. 

Another common cause of your head heaviness feeling is upper respiratory tract infection, which comes along with sore throat, cough, and fever. 

Like sinusitis and rhinitis, an upper respiratory tract infection is usually self-limiting and goes away within days or a few weeks.

Ear problems (labyrinthitis, vestibular neuronitis, and vestibular disorders)

Labyrinthitis is an inflammation of the labyrinth, a maze-like structure controlling our body balance when in an upright posture. 

Meanwhile, vestibular neuronitis is an inflammation of the vestibular nerve. This inner ear nerve sends messages related to body motion and position to the brain. When these two structures are impaired, you may experience the following:

  • Feelings of head heaviness and unsteady
  • Difficult maintaining balance when standing or walking
  • Feelings of nausea, dizziness, pressure, or a spinning sensation (vertigo)
  • Hearing loss, sometimes associated with ringing in your ears

All these motion-sickness-like symptoms can also happen in people with vestibular disorders, a group of diseases affecting the inner ear and brain that process balance-related information.

Mechanical injuries (whiplash and head trauma)

A neck muscle strain, also known as whiplash in medical terms, is a neck muscle injury due to a sudden and forceful neck movement. 

The most prominent symptom is neck pain with potential extension to the head and back. 

Besides, people suffering from a whiplash injury can experience dizziness, abnormal sensations, and a heavy head. 

In contrast to a neck muscle strain, head trauma can be more dangerous. Apart from head heaviness (which is probably an early, least severe symptom), hitting your head hard can cost you a loss of memory, trouble thinking and concentrating, nausea and vomiting, internal bleeding in the head, unconscious, and death. 

Therefore, whenever you hit your head and experience mild symptoms like head heaviness, dizziness, and pressure, do not wait and go to the emergency department immediately. 


Some medications can influence your brain activities, causing various abnormal sensations, including head heaviness, dizziness, pressure, and fogginess in the brain. These medications are common, and many are available over the counter:

  • Most antihistamines
  • Most muscle relaxants
  • Some over-the-counter pain medications
  • Beta-blockers

Other than those listed above, psychiatric medication is the strongest class of medicines that cause head heaviness. Examples are antidepressants, anxiolytics, and tranquilizers. 

If you recently started a new medication or supplement, and experience unwanted side effects, inform your healthcare provider to look for an alternative plan. 

Anxiety, depression, and psychological stress

Suppose you are still experiencing head heaviness after stopping your psychiatric medications. In that case, the symptom might be due to the condition instead of the drugs. 

Anxiety, depression, and psychological stress can cause physical symptoms, which include a heavy head or feeling weighed down, fatigue, cold sweats, fast heart rate, and difficulty concentrating. They can worsen over time if left untreated.

Other severe problems

Suppose none of the above-listed problems can be proven to cause your head to feel heavy. In that case, your doctor might proceed to consider more life-threatening conditions: myasthenia gravis and brain tumor. 

Myasthenia gravis is a long-term, progressive muscle-weakening condition. One of its features related to head heaviness is weakened and easily fatigued neck muscles, which fail to withstand the head’s weight. Therefore, people with myasthenia gravis will have head heaviness.

A brain tumor is more common than myasthenia gravis. 

For most people with a brain tumor, the prominent feature is severe headaches that worsen with activity or in the early morning. 

Other symptoms include seizures, drowsiness, and the head feeling pressured and heavy due to the brain tumor compressing the brain.

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When to see a doctor

Although head heaviness can have many possible reasons, you need to know when to stay put and when to see a doctor. 

Here is a list of warning signs that require immediate medical attention: 

  • You feel like this is the worst headache in your life. 
  • You have signs of a stroke. This includes slurred speech, facial asymmetry, and weakness of the arms or legs.
  • You have neck stiffness and are annoyed by bright lights.
  • You have sudden blurry vision or any vision disturbances
  • You’re experiencing other systemic symptoms, such as fever and rash
  • Your head heaviness happens during or after a cough or strenuous physical activities
  • You have changes in personality, mental status, and even level of consciousness

Other than symptoms, certain groups of people need to be extra careful when their heads feel heavy. These people include:

  • A pregnant woman or new mum
  • Seniors who are above 50 years
  • People with immune-weakening conditions, such as cancer, HIV infection, and Lyme disease 

Call an ambulance or visit the nearest emergency department if you have any of the above symptoms or features.


The goals of treating your head heaviness would be to relieve the “heaviness” feeling you are experiencing and, second, to find out and cure the root cause. 

Usually, your doctor will prescribe medications to relieve your head heaviness during your first clinic visit. 

Most head heaviness is associated with headaches, and stopping the pain might resolve the head heaviness feeling altogether. 

These over-the-counter pain medications, like acetaminophen (Panadol), ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin, are widely available in pharmacies or online drug stores.

For motion-sickness-like symptoms, four main classes of medications can help resolve them. Their names and a few common examples are:

  • Anticholinergics: scopolamine (usually in patch form, known as Transderm-Scop)
  • Antiemetics: dexamethasone (Decadron) and ondansetron (Zofran)
  • Antihistamines: promethazine (Phenergan), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and loratadine (Claritin)
  • Benzodiazepines: diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax)

How do I get rid of the heaviness in my head?

Other than medications, there are many ways to get rid of head heaviness. Two simple ways you can try at home are heat therapy (thermotherapy) and physical therapy.

Having a hot shower or sticking a heating pad on the tight muscle can increase blood flow to the area, reducing muscle spasms. 

Before trying thermotherapy, you should consult your doctor to ensure you can try the therapy. Thermotherapy is not for everyone; it can be harmful to people with diabetes or neurological disorders.

Similar to thermotherapy, physical therapy works by reducing head and neck muscle tension, thus reducing the feeling of head heaviness. Chin tuck and back-burn are excellent exercises to strengthen the neck muscle. 


A head that feels heavy can suggest many different conditions. When you have a heavy head, stay vigilant and monitor your condition. If you notice any warning signs, seek medical attention immediately and get them treated earlier.

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  1. Kim, R., & Patel, Z. M. (2020). Sinus Headache: Differential Diagnosis and an Evidence-Based Approach. Otolaryngologic clinics of North America, 53(5), 897–904. 
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (n.d.). Whiplash. 
  3. Viera, A. J., & Antono, B. (2022). Acute Headache in Adults: A Diagnostic Approach. American family physician, 106(3), 260–268.
  4. Burch, R., Rizzoli, P., & Loder, E. (2018). The Prevalence and Impact of Migraine and Severe Headache in the United States: Figures and Trends From Government Health Studies. Headache, 58(4), 496–505. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Allergies and Hay Fever. 
  5. National Health Service. (2020). Labyrinthitis and vestibular neuritis.

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