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What Is a Post-Traumatic Headache?

Jul 22, 2020

What Is a Post-Traumatic HeadacheAfter a car accident, you may expect some soreness, aches, and pains. Most of these issues will begin immediately after the event or within a few hours, but some conditions may not make an appearance for a week or more. Post-Traumatic Headaches are headaches that occur after a traumatic brain injury is sustained. Because they can indicate significant injuries, a post-traumatic headache is a sign you’ll want to visit an Atlanta neurology specialist. If you have recently been in a car accident and are experiencing a headache, particularly one that feels unlike other headaches you’ve had, you may be suffering a post-traumatic headache. Keep reading to learn why these happen and what you can do to find relief.

Causes of Post-Traumatic Headaches

Post-traumatic headaches occur after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been sustained- about half of patients who have a TBI experience these headaches. They may occur whether your injury was mild, moderate, or severe, though the manifestation of the headaches may differ for each person. Some people have pain that comes and goes, while it persists for others. Those that suffered from pre-existing headache disorders like migraines may experience this as an increase in frequency and severity after sustaining a brain injury.

Car accidents are one of the most common ways that TBIs are sustained. In these cases, the head usually strikes some part of the car, like the windshield or the dashboard. The impact of this strike often leads to a concussion, which slams the brain into the skull’s hard surface. Even without hitting a hard surface, the jerking motion that causes whiplash can also cause the brain to sustain damage. The force of these impacts may damage neurons in your brain and cause swelling, which ultimately changes how your brain works.

Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Headaches

The headaches brought on by a traumatic brain injury typically begin about seven days after the injury happens and are the most common complaint in this time period. It can be hard to determine what headaches fall into this category, as many people describe them as unlike any headache they’ve previously had. Others say these headaches are similar to migraines or tension headaches, with pulsing pain and tightness being other indicators.

In addition to moderate to severe pain, people suffering from post-traumatic headaches also cite nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, fatigue and insomnia, poor concentration and memory, and personality changes as common symptoms.

If you are suffering headaches after a car accident, it is important to seek treatment quickly. The severity of these headaches does not correlate to the severity of the brain injury—so even mild pain can be a sign of a serious TBI.

Treating a Post-Traumatic Headache

Aside from identifying and treating the TBI sustained, there are also a variety of treatments available to address post-traumatic headaches directly. Anti-inflammatory medications in the first few weeks will assist with initial pain, and later preventative medications may be prescribed to prevent them from recurring. Physical therapy and relaxation therapy can also be administered to assist in managing physical causes.

While the headaches go away for many people, some will suffer from post-traumatic headaches chronically after an accident. There is a lot that is still not understood about the condition, but more is coming out often. Certain behaviors can keep the symptoms under control, like the strategic use of heat and ice, massage, and getting rest and exercise.

Atlanta Neurology Specialists

When you come to AICA Orthopedics with signs of a post-traumatic headache, you can feel comfortable knowing our specialists have the resources you need to find relief. We will start by using our state-of-the-art imaging equipment to get a better view of the brain and muscles in the head and neck to determine the extent of injuries and make a diagnosis.

Once we are able to identify the injuries you sustained, we take a holistic approach to your care. Our neurology specialists are well versed in the brain injuries that can lead to these headaches, and they will work with a multidisciplinary team to help you find relief. You may work with chiropractors, physical therapists, and pain management specialists to achieve the most comprehensive care available.

Contact AICA Orthopedics today to schedule your consultation and begin a path towards healing.


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