Post-concussion headache, or post-traumatic headache, occurs following an injury to the head. Symptoms can include dull pain, fatigue, and dizziness. Treatment may vary based on a person’s symptoms.
A concussion is a type of mild traumatic brain injury. When it occurs, symptoms may be physical, cognitive, behavioral, or emotional in nature. They can include confusion, difficulty concentrating and balancing, and headaches.
Post-concussion headaches can mimic several different types of headache, such as migraine or tension headaches. The pain can also be local, occurring in the head, shoulders, or neck. People may experience different types of pain following a concussion.
This article reviews post-concussion headaches, including why they occur, types a person may experience, treatment, and more.
According to the American Headache Society (AHS), 95% of people will develop a headache following a concussion, with the majority experiencing migraine-like headaches.
Symptoms following a concussion, including headaches, are often transient, meaning they will go away on their own within about
A concussion can cause damage to nerves in the brain, which can cause additional symptoms. If a person does not recover from these symptoms in the expected time frame, they may have postconcussion syndrome.
Other symptoms of postconcussion syndrome include:
A concussion can bring on different types of headache.
The AHS notes that the most likely type of headache to occur is a migraine-like headache. Symptoms may include:
- sensitivity to light
- poor concentration
- personality changes, such as depression or nervousness
The pain can present in the front of the head or around the temples and may be throbbing or pounding.
Many people will develop a chronic headache. This means that a person may experience headache and other symptoms, such as nausea or sensitivity to light, occasionally for months or years following the concussion.
Other types of headache
About two-thirds of people experience migraine-like symptoms with their post-concussion headaches. Others may experience tension or local headache pain.
Tension headaches typically cause widespread, dull pain on both sides of the head. It may feel like a band around the head or a cap on the head.
A local headache may cause pain in the back of the head, neck, and shoulders. It is often dull and steady, not sharp. The pain will typically start at the base of the neck and may work its way toward the front of the head.
Treatment for post-concussion headaches may vary based on the symptoms a person experiences. The AHS states that there are no standardized, tested treatments for post-concussion headache.
However, experts generally recommend using medications based on the type of headache the pain most closely represents or mimics. This may include medications to treat the pain directly and to help prevent pain from occurring.
Some people may benefit from therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy and other non-pharmaceutical approaches.
A person should follow up with a doctor after experiencing a concussion. A doctor can help provide treatment for the headache or other symptoms, as well as determine if there are any more serious issues going on.
A person may also want to speak with a doctor if they continue to experience recurring headaches for months or years following the concussion. This could be a sign that the headaches have become chronic and may require additional treatment to help manage them.
Post-concussion headaches often resemble migraine and can have associated symptoms, such as light sensitivity. Some may experience only temporary headaches, while others may experience ongoing, chronic headaches.
Current treatments are not standardized. Doctors may recommend medications for pain along with other therapies to help reduce the severity and frequency of headaches.