Migraines and headaches of many types are one of the most prevalent symptoms for someone to develop after a head injury and for some, these headaches can persist for a long time after the initial injury. Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) is more common than you may think. Every year in the U.S. alone, approximately 1.4 million new cases of TBI occur. Three-quarters of these result in mild closed head injury, but even mild head injuries can have lasting, debilitating effects. The most common causes of mild head injury include the following:
- Motor vehicle accident
- Job-related accidents
- Sports or recreational accidents
- Military service-related injuries
It’s important to note that a loss of consciousness is not required in order to have a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury.
What is Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS)?
Post-concussion syndrome is a complex condition that occurs when symptoms last for weeks, months, or sometimes even years following a mild traumatic brain injury. The risk of developing post-concussion syndrome does not seem to be related to the severity of the initial injury, so you don’t need to lose consciousness or have a severe head trauma to develop persistent symptoms of PCS. Post-concussion symptoms can include:
- Increased sensitivity to sound and light
- Changes in vision
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Cognitive changes such as memory loss or trouble concentrating
Of all of these symptoms that can linger after a head injury, most people will have post-concussion headaches. These headaches can vary from person to person and may be associated with injury to the neck that occurred at the same time as the head injury.
What Types of Headache Occur After Injury?
Headaches occur in up to 90% of people who are symptomatic following a mild head injury. Headaches are even more common after injury if you have a history of headaches prior to the accident.
- Tension headaches – tension headaches are often described as a tight, squeezing sensation around the entire head as if you were wearing a hat that was fitted too tightly. Tension headaches are associated with stress and muscle spasm.
- Migraines – a migraine episode consists of a dull, throbbing headache that usually occurs on only one side of the head (though it can affect both sides). Migraines have other symptoms associated with them, including nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, and visual changes that precede the headache (called an aura).
- Occipital neuralgia – occipital neuralgia (ON) causes severe pain in the back of the head. Headaches associated with ON cause aching, pressure, stabbing, or throbbing pain due to irritation of the greater occipital nerve.
- Cervicogenic headaches – this type of headache can happen when there has also been injury to the tissues of the neck. Many nerves that branch off of the spinal cord in the neck travel up to the skull and scalp. These nerves can become irritated and result in headaches that start in the neck or shoulders and travel to the back and top of the head. Movement of the neck and changes in position of the head can make cervicogenic headache pain worse.
- Rebound headaches – rebound headaches, also referred to as medication overuse headaches, can happen when pain medication used to treat headaches actually becomes the cause of them. Rebound headaches when you’ve taken medication on a consistent schedule and you miss a dose or intentionally take less. Caffeine can also be a contributing factor – if you normally have a high caffeine consumption (caffeine is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter medicines used for pain and headaches) and you don’t consume your normal amount, you might develop a rebound headache.
Addressing the Cause Allows for Healing
If you have a history of head injury, no matter how mild, then in order to start healing from lingering symptoms you need to address the root cause. When you sustain an injury that causes a mild concussion or even a sub-concussive force, the odds are good that you’ve also injured your neck as well. The weight of your head rests upon your neck, and if your neck has sustained an injury that causes spinal misalignment along with soft tissue damage, then it can be the reason why headaches, migraines, dizziness, and other post-concussion symptoms don’t clear up as expected.
Upper cervical chiropractors are specifically trained to focus on the alignment of the vertebrae that carry the head. Your skull rests on top of the atlas vertebra, the uppermost one in your spine. The atlas has a unique shape because it has a unique function – to not only hold up the head but to allow for its freedom of movement. The way your atlas articulates with your skull above it and the vertebra beneath it (called the axis) is what lets you look up and down, from left to right and tilt your head from side to side. Because the atlas is so freely movable, it can also easily misalign when you sustain a head injury .
Upper cervical care is as gentle and precise as it gets. We take specific images to measure each patient’s misalignment down to fractions of a millimeter. This level of detail is what allows us to make corrections that hold in place for longer periods of time, allowing for your body’s natural healing process to occur as uninterrupted as possible. Many people who are dealing with stubborn headaches or migraines that are connected with an old injury feel as if they’ve exhausted all of their options and are relieved to hear that there is an option out there for natural, lasting relief.
To schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Casey Weerheim call our Sioux Falls office at 605-275-6900 You can also click the button below.
If you are outside of the local area, you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.