Here's Why That Ponytail Is Causing You Hair Pain

Ponytails are easy and quick hairstyles that work on hair of many different lengths and textures, making them a go-to for everyday wear and special occasions alike. Celebrities such as Ariana Grande are known to rock the look on and off the red carpet, but these updos also come at a potential price. Yes, the old adage that "beauty is pain" can unfortunately apply here too, and the phenomenon of ponytail pain was even documented in a 2004 study published in the medical journal Headache.


If you've ever worn your hair up for an extended period of time and then found that you've gotten a serious headache from it after a while, you already know the feeling, but it's entirely possible that you haven't stopped to wonder why this sensation occurs, or if you're the only one who feels that way. But we're here to confirm that the feeling of pain alongside a ponytail is common, and it isn't just because you've gotten tired of your hairstyle.

The science behind ponytail headaches

First things first, ponytail headaches are very real, as confirmed by Healthline, where it is noted that they occur when nerves in the hair follicles and scalp are affected by the tight hairstyle. Wade Cooper, D.O., shared with Michigan Medicine, "It's actually a real headache disorder known as ponytail headache syndrome. "It doesn't affect everyone, but a tightly pulled-back hairdo can be really uncomfortable for those it does affect."


Dermatologist Dr. Lian Mack also explained the phenomenon to Seventeen, saying, "When you wear your hair in a tight-fitting ponytail, the nerve endings become accustomed to being in that direction, and pressure is placed on the follicle. When you remove the ponytail, the nerve endings are suddenly stimulated, resulting very commonly in the feeling of sensitivity or pain."

Fortunately, even if you are affected by ponytail headache syndrome, you probably don't have to swear off wearing your hair in a ponytail forever.

How to relieve ponytail headaches

While Healthline suggests taking down ponytails once an hour if you're someone who gets headaches from ponytails, this advice may not be feasible for everyone. According to Wade Cooper, along with pulling your hair back loosely, you can also treat pain with pain relief medication: "When you know you're going to have a tight hairstyle and you've felt this type of discomfort before, I recommend pretreating with ibuprofen," he told Michigan Medicine.


Cooper also spoke to the Sunday Edit on the subject and cautioned that individuals should "only take these medications [to treat a ponytail headache] two times per week," meaning that it is still a good idea to find an alternative if you are required to wear your hair up frequently and suffer from headaches as a result. Some of the most effective alternative relief options include taking magnesium supplements daily and reducing stress by getting enough sleep.

Haircare specialist Lars Skjoth also provided a word of warning to Allure, commenting, "Pay attention to this kind of hair pain — it can be a warning about coming hair loss."