What are the Common Causes of Headache and Weakness?

Marisa O'Connor

Headaches, also known as cephalgia, are classified as pain located in the head or neck region. Weakness refers to lack of muscle strength, dizziness, fatigue or a general feeling of uneasiness. It is fairly common for these two symptoms to be present at the same time. Headache and weakness can be caused by stress, injury, common illness, medical conditions and stimulant use or withdrawal.

High blood pressure may cause headaches.
High blood pressure may cause headaches.

A headache might feel like pressure, hammering or throbbing in the brain, but in fact, the brain has no pain receptors. The pain actually occurs in the area surrounding the brain. Headaches can be located inside the skull, in the blood vessels or in the cranial nerves. Headaches also can be located outside the skull, in the muscles, nerves or sinuses. Some headaches, such as migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches, also include weakness as a symptom.

Drinking water can help with a headache and weakness.
Drinking water can help with a headache and weakness.

Weakness can be divided into two categories, true weakness and perceived weakness. True weakness is caused primarily by skeletal muscle diseases, in which the muscles are physically weakened. The more commonly used definition of weakness is perceived weakness. This is when more effort is needed to use the muscles, but the actual muscle strength is normal. Flu weakness is an example of perceived weakness; it is caused by a condition affecting the exertion of energy rather than by the actual strength of the muscle.

Heat exhaustion can cause weakness and headache.
Heat exhaustion can cause weakness and headache.

Stress is a common cause of headache and weakness. Too much stress can cause psychological disorders. Some stress related disorders are anxiety, burnout syndrome and acute stress reaction.

Some common illnesses can cause weakness and headache.
Some common illnesses can cause weakness and headache.

Headache and weakness are symptoms of a variety of common illnesses, including cold and flu. Similar to a cold, acute sinusitis also shows these symptoms. Heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion and dehydration, can cause weakness and headaches as well as nausea.

Stress is a common cause of headache and weakness.
Stress is a common cause of headache and weakness.

Physical injury can sometimes show these symptoms. Head injuries, neck trauma and whiplash are all associated with headaches and weakness. Sunburn, a less serious injury, can show these symptoms as well.

Burnout syndrome may cause headaches.
Burnout syndrome may cause headaches.

Some medical conditions are common causes of headache and weakness. Medical conditions associated with these symptoms include high blood pressure and anemia. Pregnancy also can cause these symptoms.

Common symptoms of seasonal influenza include headaches, fatigue, and lethargy.
Common symptoms of seasonal influenza include headaches, fatigue, and lethargy.

Use of and withdrawal from stimulants can cause head pain and weakness. Legal stimulants, such as nicotine and caffeine, are more common causes of the these symptoms. Illegal stimulants, such as amphetamines, also cause these symptoms.

Physical injury, such as from whiplash, can cause headaches and weakness.
Physical injury, such as from whiplash, can cause headaches and weakness.

Most of the time, headaches can be treated with analgesics. If an injury to the head or neck was sustained recently and symptoms include headache and weakness, a doctor should be consulted. This might be a sign of serious injury.

Neck trauma can cause headaches.
Neck trauma can cause headaches.

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Discussion Comments

Rundocuri

@ocelot60- That is also a good tip. However, as the article points out, these simply treatments should not be tried without a proper medical diagnosis. This is important because you should always rule out serious health issues before self-treating your symptoms.

Ocelot60

@raynbow- Thank you for the tip. I think we all try to keep at our busy schedules even when we shouldn't. I have found that when I get a headache and weakness, I eat a healthy snack along with taking a break. This often helps me ward off a major headache. If it doesn't, then I take medications and a nap.

Raynbow

Regardless of the underlying cause of a headache that is accompanied by weakness, it is very important to take a break and get some rest if you are experiencing these symptoms. Trying to keep up with your routine schedule, caring for children, or working at your job while you are suffering from two potentially debilitating symptoms will only make them worse.

When I get a headache, I also always feel weak at the same time. Over time, I realized that when I try to keep going at my regular pace, my headache often turns into a migraine and I end up having to take several days off work to recover. When I realized that I was just making my problems worse, I began trying a different approach. Now, when I take over-the-counter pain relievers and a nap, I almost always recover from a headache and weakness within a few hours instead of days.

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