Headaches after brain injury are really common and can last a long time. The pain from headaches can make life more difficult. If you are in pain, you may not sleep well. You may struggle more with thinking and memory.
The four main types of headaches after brain injuries:
Many times a person may have more than one type of headache.
Migraines are usually on one side of the head. They may be associated with nausea or vomiting and light or sound sensitivity. You might have an aura or a warning signal that a migraine is starting. This might involve seeing spots or bright lights.
This type of headache comes from muscle tension. They usually have a tight, squeezing sensation, typically around the entire head and usually occur later in the day.
This type of headache is typically related to injury to the muscles and tissues in the back of the neck. This type of headache usually starts in the neck, shoulders or back of the head. It may extend over the top of the head. Neck movement or positioning can make the pain worse.
Sometimes medicines used to treat headaches can lead to rebound headaches. If you take pain medicines on a regular basis, missing a dose can lead to a headache. Even over-the-counter medications can cause rebound headaches if taken frequently.
Ways to Treat Headaches:
Get enough sleep. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Lack of sleep makes fatigue worse, thinking more difficult and headaches worse.
Get daily exercise. Exercise helps the brain after injury. Just walking each day can help.
Avoid or limit caffeine.
Avoid or limit foods that trigger a headache. Red wine, monosodium glutamate and certain cheeses can be triggers.
If possible, avoid taking pain medicines on a daily basis. Talk to your doctor about medications you are taking.
Try to reduce stress with relaxation techniques such as listening to music, meditating, or deep breathing.
Wear dark glasses if bright lights trigger your headaches.
Rest in a dark, quiet place
Heat or ice packs
Counseling for stress reduction
Physical therapy for neck condition
Over-the-counter pain medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen.
Prescription medicines for migraine headache like sumatriptan (Imitrex).
Local injections to muscles, nerves or joints in the neck.
Anti-seizure medicines (like gabapentin (Neurontin) or topiramate (Topamax)).
Certain blood pressure medication called beta-blockers (propranolol).
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections.
Who can help me with my Headaches?
- Physiatrists (doctors specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) can help with headaches after a brain injury. Some physiatrists treat patients with brain injury and other physiatrists treat musculoskeletal conditions like back pain. Be sure that the physiatrist you see treats brain injury survivors.
- Neurologists often treat people with headaches. Be sure that the neurologist you see does treat headaches. Not all neurologists do.
- Physical therapists
- Physical therapists can help with cervicogenic or tension headaches by treating tight muscles and neck pain.
- Massage Therapists
- Massage therapists can reduce headaches by helping to relax muscles.
- Mental health counselors
- Mental health counselors can help you reduce stress which can lessen headaches.