How Often Do Post-Traumatic Headaches Happen After a Collision?

Published on Mar 26, 2020 at 10:57 am in Car Accidents.

Man sitting outside with head in hand

Injuries vary greatly when someone is involved in a car accident. Head and brain injuries are often among the most concerning because of the potential for long-term and life-changing consequences. If you’ve been involved in a crash and are experiencing headaches, you’re not alone. In fact, post-traumatic headaches are common after traumatic brain injuries like concussions. While some people may start getting headaches immediately following an accident, others may not get them until a few days or weeks have passed. Let’s take a look at why this happens and what can be done in regard to treatment.

The Link Between Car Accidents and Traumatic Brain Injuries

Because of the force at which car accidents take place, it’s not uncommon for victims to sustain head injuries. Any blow to the head or violent shaking of the brain can cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). With a less severe brain injury, it’s not uncommon for a headache to develop. Most headaches are mild and resolve on their own without any lasting side effects. Unfortunately, TBIs like concussions can cause post-traumatic headaches.

It’s important for car accident victims to recognize the signs of a brain injury, as they’ll need to report what they’re experiencing to a doctor. Common head injury signs include dull, aching pain, loss of appetite, the sensation of pressure or tightness across the forehead or on the back or sides of the head, scalp or neck tenderness, dizziness, mood swings, and loss of consciousness.

What Is a Post-Traumatic Headache?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 2.9 million traumatic brain injuries in the United States in 2014. Post-traumatic headaches are a normal side effect of the most common TBI, a concussion—which happens when sudden movement causes the brain to bounce around or twist inside the skull. This leads to the stretching and damaging of brain cells and chemical changes in the brain.

While not all concussions result in post-traumatic headaches, risk factors that increase the chances of experiencing the symptoms include being female and having a family history of migraines. Post-traumatic headaches involve pain that develops within seven days of injury or after regaining consciousness. A study by the American Migraine Foundation estimated that 90% of traumatic brain injury patients experience post-traumatic headaches. While there is little evidence to explain this phenomenon, headache cases are highest in those who experience brain injury without loss of consciousness.

Depending on the symptoms of the headache, it could be classified as a migraine or a tension headache. A migraine involves moderate to severe pulsating head pain, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and pain that worsens with activity. A tension headache involves mild to moderate non-pulsating pain, no nausea or vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Other problems associated with post-traumatic headaches include poor concentration, problems with balance, irritability, decreased ability to work, depression, and sleep disturbances.

Diagnosing and Treating Post-Traumatic Headaches

Currently, doctors do not fully understand the cause of post-traumatic headaches, however, there are ways to confirm a diagnosis. Oftentimes, a neurological exam in conjunction with a review of medical records will be enough for a doctor to make a diagnosis. Depending on the severity of the headaches, a patient could receive a specialist referral.

It’s theorized that post-traumatic headaches are the result of the release of certain chemicals in the brain or swelling or shrinking of brain structures. Treatment usually involves medication; however, the type and duration vary depending on individual need. During the first few weeks, patients are usually prescribed anti-inflammatories or triptans—which are used for migraines.

If post-traumatic headaches persist, preventative drug therapy is an option. This could involve antidepressants, blood pressure pills, or anti-seizure medication.

If a patient wants to try routes that don’t involve medication, they can try biofeedback, relaxation therapy, physical therapy, and cognitive behavior modification.

Seeking Compensation for Collision-Related Injuries

No matter when your headaches start after a wreck, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention. If you have an undiagnosed traumatic brain injury, the sooner the injury is recognized the better. Once you’ve discussed all your symptoms with the doctor, they can provide you with a diagnosis and you can focus on your recovery.

If you believe a post-traumatic headache diagnosis is the result of a car accident, there may be grounds for legal action. When negligent drivers text, break laws, or drive intoxicated and injure others, they should be held accountable for their actions. Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC represent accident victims in Jackson, Mississippi to help them recover compensation for their losses. To learn more about filing a personal injury claim, contact our office today.

Free Consultations


Call us or fill out the form below to tell us about your potential case and a personal injury lawyer will get back to you as quickly as possible.