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Recognizing Concussion Headaches

Football signs of concussion
Headaches are among the most common symptoms of concussion, and can have different presentations and different causes for each individual.

Berkeley Martin, MD

Q: What about headaches?

A: Concussions may cause many different symptoms as mentioned in last month’s blog post. Typically the symptoms will resolve within a few days to weeks with appropriate physical and brain rest, and graduated activity, as directed by a physical therapist, athletic trainer or physician. Headaches are among the most common symptoms of concussion, and can have different presentations and different causes for each individual. They may be due to the original impact/traumatic event, neck pain from a whiplash injury, muscle tension, emotional distress, medication overuse, or issues with blood flow. Patients with prior headache problems may have a worsening of their headaches after a concussion.

There are several different ways to treat a headache related to a concussion, depending on the type of headache involved. Initially, physical and brain rest – the time period adjusted for each individual – are important. In severe cases, a physician may assist in directing treatment with over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or other pain medications. If headaches persist, preventative medications may be prescribed. Other treatment options include physical therapy directed at the neck muscles, psychology consultation to help with behavioral changes, and interventions such as vitamin supplements, injections, massage therapy, and acupuncture.

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