It’s not unusual to experience a headache following a long day or a wild night out. But if you’re wondering why your head is heaving, there are a few things to take into account. In actuality, there are a number of causes behind your head’s weight. We must first determine what you mean by “heavy” before proceeding. That can include a variety of sensations, such as pain, tiredness, fogginess, dizziness, and pressure or congestion in the nose, according to Matthew Wright, P.A.-C, R.D., a certified physician assistant and primary care provider who teaches in the physician assistant program at Rutgers University School of Health Professions. We would then conduct a full medical history and inquire about any additional symptoms you may be experiencing.
Your doctor may also inquire about when the discomfort first appeared, whether it has become worse since it first appeared, what triggers it, whether anything helps or hurts, when it occurs, and how bad it is. According to Wright, “the responses help us focus on what is most likely to be the source of this sensation, which will help us decide if we need tests and imaging as well as potential treatment approaches.”
The family physician of Cooper Care Alliance, Cooper University Health Care, Devon Stutzman, D.O., adds that he commonly hears this symptom and that allergic rhinitis is frequently to blame. It may also be accompanied by a variety of other symptoms and is also referred to as pressure or tightness. These include sniffling, watery eyes, itchy or drippy noses, and sneezing (but without fever). The signs might come back at the same time every year, or they might be present all year long.
A patient’s medical history and office examination can be used to diagnose allergies. According to Dr. Stutzman, “we treat conservatively by suggesting a trial of an oral antihistamine such as fexofenadine, cetirizine, or loratadine, especially if there is congestion.” “I also advise patients to keep a notebook about their eating habits and environments to see if they can identify a possible connection.” If these treatments don’t help, you can be referred to an allergist for testing to find out which allergens or chemicals are causing your allergies.
Upright Respiratory Infection
Upper respiratory infections are caused by a wide variety of viruses. Headache, sore throat, fever, coughing, and wheezing are a few symptoms that may appear. According to Dr. Stutzman, “during the history, I’ll also ask if you’ve tested for COVID or have had contact with any sick persons.”
According to Dr. Stutzman, if you have an upper respiratory infection, your doctor will advise supportive treatment to make you feel better. Rest, saltwater gargles, oral lozenges, hot baths or showers to loosen mucus, and using a neti pot to lessen secretions are all included in this.
If it’s COVID, you might be given antiviral medicine, although this is often reserved for those who are most at risk, such as those over 65 or those with impaired immune systems. The drug has numerous side effects, including diarrhea and a metallic taste, so it isn’t typically given for everyone, according to Dr. Stutzman.
You might have gotten a sinus infection if your cold gets better before suddenly getting worse. A sinus infection is suspected when cold symptoms persist for more than seven to ten days. Cold symptoms usually go away in about a week. According to Wright, the symptoms include pain in the cheeks, brows, and forehead as well as sinus pressure that may feel worse when you lean forward.
Despite what you’ve read, it’s not always possible to tell whether a sinus infection is the cause of your mucus’ hue. According to Wright, “we concentrate more on the length of symptoms and facial pain.” You will probably be prescribed medications like amoxicillin or doxycycline if you have a sinus infection. You can feel better by taking acetaminophen for discomfort, an antihistamine such fexofenadine for drippiness, and drinking plenty of water.
According to Wright, several drugs can make you feel strange, like dizzy or with a heavy head. Discuss potential side effects and other options with your healthcare practitioner if you’ve just begun a new medicine (or supplement). Antihistamines, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, some anti-seizure medications, pain relievers, and beta blockers are some of the medications that may make you feel as though your head is heaving.
According to Dr. Stutzman, you may have a concussion if you’ve recently experienced a head trauma, such as being rear-ended in a car accident (even a mild one), striking your head while playing sports, or falling. Headache, lightheadedness, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, nausea, and vomiting are among possible symptoms. With physical or mental exertion, strong light, or both, these symptoms could get worse.
Your doctor will evaluate you for symptoms of a concussion, such as if your pupils are dilation normally on both sides and whether your strength is the same on both sides.
According to Dr. Stutzman, unless there was a loss of consciousness, imaging tests like a CT scan won’t be necessary. In that scenario, you will often be sent straight to the emergency room from the scene of the accident.
Care comprises a few days of physical rest, a reduction in work or school obligations to allow for cognitive rest, and a two-week suspension from sports or other intensive activities. According to Dr. Stutzman, you should gradually resume your normal activities and cut back if your symptoms return when you are active.
You may feel weight or tightness in your upper back and neck from muscle tension after spending so much time at the computer (or crouched over your phone). A tension headache, which is a squeezing head pain, may also be present. Additionally, stress might make the symptoms worse.
In-office testing might detect muscle soreness, and you can be given a prescription for physical therapy to learn stretches and strengthening routines to ease discomfort and avert recurrences, according to Wright. Warm baths or showers, a heating pad that boosts blood flow to the affected area to lessen muscular spasms, and over-the-counter pain relievers may be helpful.
Get into the habit of frequently switching postures, such as by using a standing desk, if you frequently get muscle soreness because you spend too much time sitting down, advises Wright. Additionally, if an occupational therapist is available at your place of business, have your workstation assessed to see if any ergonomic adjustments can be made.
Anxiety and Depression
Your healthcare practitioner might run a mental health screening on you if your symptoms don’t match any of the examples above, according to Wright. You may have symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders such as weariness, irritability, sadness, or an inability to take pleasure in your typical hobbies. Alterations in food and sleeping habits are other typical symptoms. Therapy, medicine, or a mix of the two are all possible treatment choices.
Other Underlying Issues
Rarely, head heaviness could be a symptom of a brain tumour or some more serious illness. This is unusual, and you would typically also experience other neuromuscular symptoms, such as weakness on one side or abnormal pupil reaction, explains Dr. Stutzman. Your doctor will check you for any more probable causes of head heaviness first. Then, if your medical history justifies it, you could require imaging tests like an MRI.
The final line is that your provider should be consulted about any symptoms that linger or worry you. “The Internet can be a fantastic resource for research, but don’t assume the worst. There are several other reasons why someone could feel like their head is heavy, according to Wright. “If you’re concerned, get checked out.”