Low Blood Pressure Headache: Causes & Symptoms

By Andrew Yocum, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 24, 2022

Low blood pressure (also called hypotension) can be caused by a number of underlying conditions, lifestyle factors, and everyday behaviors—sometimes as simple as standing up too quickly.

Occasional drops in blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals are not typically cause for concern, and are not always associated with other symptoms.

In other instances, less common symptoms like a severe headache can occur.

When this happens, it’s important to understand what is causing your hypotension and the additional symptoms you may be experiencing. 

Can Low Blood Pressure Cause Headaches?

Although it’s not a common symptom, low blood pressure can cause headaches.

A rare condition known as spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH)—a condition in which fluid pressure inside the skull is lower than normal—can be the culprit when it comes to these types of headaches. 

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What is the Connection Between Blood Pressure and Headaches?

These types of headaches are also called orthostatic, and occur when changes in the blood pressure of your head occur dramatically.

They are known as postural, meaning they are associated with the position or posture of your body.

For example, if you bend over and suddenly move upright, you may experience a painful headache.

According to The BMJ, the postural nature is assumed to be due to loss of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the tough outer layer of tissue that protects the brain.

There are several underlying causes for these types of headaches including:

  • Spontaneous intracranial hypotension (SIH)
  • Post-dural puncture (resulting from spinal tap or spinal anesthesia)
  • Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) fistula

These headaches can be severe.

They can be eased by lying down, but worsened in the upright position, which may result in sufferers being bed bound.

Other symptoms closely associated with intracranial hypotension and headaches include:

What Causes Low Blood Pressure

A variety of factors, from certain medications to medical conditions, can cause short- and long-term drops in blood pressure. 

Medicines and substances that can cause low blood pressure include:

Conditions that can cause low blood pressure include:

Conditions that can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure include:

  • Loss of blood from bleeding
  • Low body temperature
  • Sepsis (a severe blood infection)
  • Severe dehydration from vomiting, diarrhea, or fever
  • A reaction to medication or alcohol
  • Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction)

Types of Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is divided into three major types. 

  • Orthostatic hypotension (postural hypotension): This occurs when blood pressure drops due to a change in position—most commonly, when someone goes from lying down to standing up.
  • Postprandial hypotension: This type of low blood pressure occurs when blood pressure drops 1-2 hours after eating a meal. It is most common in older adults, especially those with high blood pressure or autonomic nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
  • Neurally mediated hypotension (vasovagal syncope): This type of low blood pressure occurs when blood pressure drops after standing for a long time, or in response to stress or fear. It is most common in young adults and children. 

Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure 

Hypotension is often asymptomatic, meaning it has no symptoms.

This is why it’s common for it to go unnoticed.

When symptoms are present, they may include:

Maintaining Your Blood Pressure

Lower than normal blood pressure in a healthy person that does not cause any symptoms often does not require treatment.

In other cases, treatment depends on the symptoms and the underlying cause of low blood pressure.

Both lifestyle changes and medication can help manage low blood pressure.

Some other ways to maintain healthy blood pressure include:

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When to See a Medical Provider

If you’re experiencing headaches in conjunction with other symptoms of low blood pressure such as frequent, unexplained fainting or dizziness, contact your doctor or healthcare provider.

Also contact a doctor if you have:

  • Black or maroon stools
  • Chest pain
  • Fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath

When you visit, your doctor will check your blood pressure and may perform blood, urine, or imaging tests to determine if you have hypotension.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can low blood pressure give you a headache?
Yes. Low blood pressure headaches can occur when there are dramatic changes in the blood pressure of your head.
What does a low blood pressure headache feel like?
A low blood pressure headache is often described as a “pulling sensation” from the back of the head to the neck. The headache can range from mild to very severe. It typically worsens when sitting or standing up, and is relieved when lying down.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Andrew Yocum, MD

Dr Andrew Yocum is a board certified emergency physician. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology before attending Northeast Ohio Medical University where he would earn his Medical Doctorate (MD).

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