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A Neurologist Explains Why Ponytails Cause Headaches

If you're like me, a high ponytail is your go to hairstyle if you haven't got time. It's amazing the compliments you can get for something that literally took two seconds to do. But sometimes there is a downside to looking so sleek.

Often we can fall victim to an achey, throbbing head after such a fierce hairdo. We're often reminded that pain is beauty so most of the time we just grim and bare it. However, an American neurologist has just answered all our prayers, providing tips to stop the pain and explaining why we get it in the first place. Neurologist Dr Denise E. Chou told Cosmopolitan that those of us who experience headaches when wearing ponytails are actually already migraine-prone.

"Patients don’t realise they have a migraine because it’s often undiagnosed. It affects about 12 percent of the population and roughly about 18 percent of women," she said.


Those susceptible to migraines experience sensory hypersensitivity which makes nerves around the face and scalp super sensitive. 

"When you put your hair in a tight bun or ponytail, or a weave or extensions, that will pull the nerves in the scalp. That pulling of the nerves will activate the sensory nerves even more," Dr Chou revealed. 

"That can result in the headache itself, or it could be that the headache is beginning," she continued.


It can lead to a phenomenon known as cutaneous allodynia which is the perception of pain due to an otherwise non-painful stimulus.

"Putting your hair up shouldn’t be painful. But it can be perceived as painful during a migraine attack," Dr Chou said.

The bad new is even if you're not prone to migraines you can still experience ponytail pain due to the physical strain, tension, or compression which activates the sensory nerve endings.

Her advice is to restrain from medicating the pain with Advil as it can do you more harm than good. Dr Chou warns it could led to rebound headaches or medication overuse headaches.

"If you’re using these acute over the counter medications to abort headaches 10 or more days a month, that can cause headaches to get worse by increasing the pain receptors," she said.



If you suffer from pony tail pain the good news is it can be treated. Although it varies from patient to patient Dr Chou says she's seen promising data for migraine and headache relief via supplements like Riboflavin/vitamin B2, magnesium, and herbal options like Butterbur and Feverfew.

She says it's vital to consult with your doctor before starting any new regimen. One simple solution is avoiding tight ponytails and buns and relaxing your hairstyle. Sounds pretty simple!

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