Why Do Ponytails Hurt so Much ?

There is no better hair-do than a ponytail. It keeps the hair off your face, you can just throw it up and not really care what it looks like, and it can hide some unwashed hair if you forgot to wash your hair one day. However, keep that ponytail in too long and you may experience a major headache. This got me wondering as to why this happens. Is it the way the hair pulls up on the scalp, or is it something more? Dr. Denise E Chou, neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center specializes in treating headaches and has figured out the mystery behind headaches and ponytails.

Chou claims that people who experience headaches while wearing ponytail are most likely already migraine-prone. Since migraines are rarely diagnosed, people (especially women who wear ponytails) often don’t realize this may be the source of their pain. Migraine prone people have more sensitivity around the face and scalp, and when pulled with the ponytail may lead to headaches. Ponytails are not meant to be painful, and therefore, this perception of pain due to an otherwise non-painful stimulus is called cutaneous allodynia. Putting your hair up shouldn’t be painful, but it can be perceived as painful when a migraine or headache happens while your hair is up.

Even those who aren’t migraine prone may still experience headaches while your hair is up. This is because when your hair is up or in a tight bun, the strain of the nerves around the face will pull, similarly to those who are migraine-prone, and cause pain.

In order to reduce the amount of ponytail headaches you may get, you can simply try taking it out and wearing your hair down, or doing a loose ponytail or bun which won’t pull of the nerves as much – like Beyonce.




1 thought on “Why Do Ponytails Hurt so Much ?

  1. Alexis Herrington

    I think this blog is missing evidence from a particular study. I tried trying to find one and I couldn’t find a study posted related to this topic. All I found was a section on webmd confirming that wearing your hair up too tightly can result in staining the scalp and ultimately causing a head ache, and that taking your hair down was a simple relief to this pain. Link here: http://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/common-headaches-16/slideshow-headache-triggers
    With this being said, is it possible studies have been done on this topic but they suffer from the file drawer problem?
    I get it though, it is important to make sure your hair looks good, this is especially true for girls. Many females even go to the extreme of changing their hair color chemically. But how healthy is this really? I recently found a study here: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/86/3/210.short that examines how hair dye users may be at risk for cancers.
    But like we discussed one class, if doing something, whether it’s wearing your hair up even if it causes a bad headache, or dying your hair die or smoking, even if it is said to cause cancer, or anything else that is said to have a negative health effect, if people really like doing that thing, sometimes not even the best study results will convince them to stop the bad habit.

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