Hard, Small, Painful Lumps on back, top, left and right side of head

You may be have a lump on the head that has escaped your attention for a long time. In any case, most of us rarely do scalp self-examinations.

It is not common to have a bump on the head that is dangerous or malignant. Even so, such lumps can develop on the scalp, just as they can on any other body part. Such reasons make it necessary to pay attention in the advent of a lump anywhere on your head.

The skull is one of the hardest body structures. This is mainly because it serves the duty of protecting the most delicate organ on the body, the brain. While the skull may be hard, it is not completely immune from potential damage. This includes infections occurring on the scalp, which may in one way or another get the better of the skull and reach the brain.

Common causes of lump on head

Let’s first look at the various potential causes of lumps on the head. Note that any of the discussed causes may lead to formation of a bump anywhere on the head.


Pilar cysts and sebaceous cysts are common on the head. There actually is not much difference between these two types of cysts. The bottom line is that they form after there is blockage of the hair follicles by sebum. Hereditary predisposition is thought to encourage their formation. Other forms of cysts can occur in the mouth and lead to formation of a lump under chin with no pain.


Pimples on the scalp mostly occur due to ingrown hairs. This is common in men who shave their heads. When shaving, it may happen that hairs are cut too deep in the skin. Such hairs will tend to grow into the skin rather than outwards. This leads to formation of tiny lumps on the scalp.

Seborrheic keratosis

This is one of the most common causes of lumps on the head. The condition runs in families. It leads to formation of colorless lumps which are in most cases round. The lumps can also be brown in color and may take an oval shape.


Tophi are forms of gout. The condition arises from elevated levels of uric acid in the body. It is characterized by formation of bumps on the skin. Like other forms of gout, the lumps are often painful.


Moles are bumps that occur all over the skin. An adult human can have up to 50 moles. They are usually red or dark brown. Typical moles do not keep growing in size.

Nevus sebaceous

A yellowish patch on the head of a child is likely to going to be caused by nevus sebaceous. The condition has been observed to cause lumps on head during later years of development.

Lyme disease and insect bites

Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks. It causes lumps on the part of the skin where the tick has bitten. Insect bites and stings can also cause skin inflammations, especially on bald scalps.

Physical injuries

Physical injuries are common on the head. They can be dangerous if inflicted with a blunt object. This is due to potential blood clotting inside the scalp. Patients are much advised to have physical injuries treated as soon as they have been sustained. This is especially seen in the case of a painful lump on the testicle caused by twisting of the testicles.


Neurofibromatosis is mostly diagnosed in children. It is a genetic disorder that causes lumps on the tissues that surround the nerves.


Cancer cells can start on the scalp. This is common in bald men who spend long hours exposed to direct sunlight. Cancer cells usually spread if not treated. This can lead to symptoms such as a lump in the throat after eating due to presence of tumors in the throat.


Lipoma can occur anywhere on the skin, including the scalp. It leads to formation of soft, rubbery and movable lumps under the skin.

Hard lump on top of head that feels like bones

In some rare cases, a lump on top of head may feel like a bone. Surprisingly enough, it could be a typical bone you are feeling.

The lump may be caused by a benign bone tumor. It is a condition that causes the skull bone to keep growing abnormally. Infections, skin trauma and irritation can trigger the condition. In most cases, a benign bone growth on the scalp is chronically painful.

Lump on back of head behind ear

A hard lump behind the ear is likely caused by swollen lymph nodes. Lymph nodes swell in response to microbial invasion in the body.

Such a lump can appear on the right side of head or the left side of head. It can also occur on both sides. It mostly depends on the infection that triggered the swelling of the lymph nodes.

For example, an injury sustained on the left side of the head will rarely cause the lymph nodes on the right side to swell and vice versa.

Boils also often develop on the side of the head. The main giveaway symptoms for boils are pain, burning sensations and pus formation.

Small lump on back of head

There are a set of lymph node terminals located just behind the head. Like other lymph nodes, these ones will swell in the advent of a microbial infection occurring nearby. Swelling of these lymph nodes will be felt as a painful lump on back of head.

Lipoma is also a common cause of small lump on the back of the head. As mentioned earlier, lipoma lumps are usually soft and movable. A larger one may be surrounded by other smaller ones closely by.

If the lump is hard yet painful, it as well could be a cyst. Cysts get painful when irritated or broken open. Boils are naturally painful even without irritation.

It is very rare that a lump on back of head will be due to cancer or a bony growth. All the same, it will be for the best if you can have it checked by a doctor.

Symptoms of lump on head

Symptoms are effective diagnostic tools. They will help you identify the possible cause and type of lump on head you may be dealing with.

If you notice red or dark brown lumps on head that are neither itchy nor painful, they probably are moles. If the lumps are largely colorless or slightly dark brown, they are most likely caused by seborrheic keratosis. Both conditions are harmless.

A hard lump on back of head or on top of head that feels like bones is probably a cyst. Cysts are in most cases painless. All the same, some can be large enough to cause discomfort or even pain. Cysts are however harmless. They clear on their own even without treatment.

Some people develop pimples on their heads due to hormonal changes. This is common during puberty and menstrual periods. Such pimples are harmless. Pimples on the head caused by ingrown hairs are no calls for concern. They will not only heal with time but will also not lead to cancer.

A painful lump on back of head can be due to a boil. Boils are forms of bacterial infections. They are always very painful.

If you notice a hard bump on top of head that keeps growing and evolving, there are reasons to associate it with cancer. Such a lump should be checked by a doctor right away. If left alone, cancer lumps spread to other parts of the body and become extremely tricky to treat.

Treatment for lump on top, on side or on the back of head

Doctors diagnose bumps on the head through physical examination. The patient may be required to provide further details on symptoms experienced, medical history, severity of pain and such. If need be, X-rays and biopsies will be used.

A lump on the head can be treated in the following ways:


A number of medications can be directly injected into the scalp to get rid of the scalp lump or its symptoms. This includes cancer lumps.

Topical options

Topical options such as creams and ointments will help with itchy lumps such as caused by insect bites and Lyme disease. Salicylic acid can be used to get rid of lumps due to moles.


A lump on head due to physical injury may need to be managed in short-term with painkillers. This is only until a better solution has been arrived at.


Surgical removal of lumps on head is by far the most considered alternative. A small lump can for example be removed even in a clinic. Larger ones such as due to cancer require advanced surgical procedures.

Treatment can also be done at home with home remedies. Apple cider vinegar is a good example. Applying it on lumps will have an almost similar effect to using salicylic acid creams.

You can also try lemon juice, aloe Vera, neem or essential oils. These home remedies will not only soothe irritated skin but will also prevent infections. They are good considerations for treatment of infected lump behind the earlobe or in the armpit.

When treating lumps on head, reduce application of beauty products that are too greasy. Sulphur-containing products are a better choice, since sulphur is a natural antiseptic.

Never treat a lump on head that keeps evolving at home. Changes in size, color, symmetry and mass of a lump are good indications that the lump may be cancerous. In fact, consider learning more on signs of cancer, including how to check your breasts for lumps.