Weaving your hair into a tight ponytail can cause some discomfort and even a headache. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but there is a medical explanation.
This type of headache disorder is known as ponytail headache syndrome, according to Dr. Wade Cooper, director of Michigan Medicine’ Headache and Neuropathic Pain Program. He said this kind of headache is a form of allodynia, a regular stimulus that can be interpreted as painful.
“If someone lightly touches your arm, you wouldn’t expect it to hurt, but with allodynia your skin becomes overly sensitive and even a light touch can cause pain,” Dr. Cooper told Newswise. Ponytail headaches are related to an oversensitive scalp.
Not everyone is affected by a ponytail, but there are some connections to migraine or other types of headaches, according to Cooper. He said that individuals prone to migraine or tension-type headaches are more likely to experience ponytail headaches.
Other factors that can increase an individual’s likelihood of a ponytail headache is a lack of sleep or a lot of stress.
Cooper has recommendations for minimizing the pain when you otherwise have to have a ponytail. He recommends pulling hair back as loosely as possible or pretreating with ibuprofen.
“If you can take your ponytail out at some point, even for a few minutes, that can help,” Cooper said.