- Headaches are very common after a concussion.
- Most of the time they resolve within a week. Follow the basic management tips and get professional help if headaches don’t improve after a week or two.
- Having persistent headaches does not mean that you are hurting your brain.
- You may need medications to treat chronic headaches, especially if you have a personal history/ family history of migraines or if headaches occur daily.
- Some people will develop chronic headaches and treatment is geared towards the headaches. They are not a sign of ongoing concussion.
- If your headache is getting worse and worse during the first 24-48 hours, is associated with vomiting, blurry vision and/or drowsiness you should consult a doctor or go to emergency.
What Causes a Headache After a Concussion?
‘Post-concussion’ headaches can occur for a number of reasons, such as straining the muscles in the back of the neck or hurting the surface of your head / scalp. Headaches can also be triggered from light or noise sensitivity or from difficulty focusing for a period of time.
Headaches are the most common symptom after a concussion.
For other types of pain, see Pain Management.
When should you seek urgent medical attention for a headache?
The vast majority of headaches are NOT a symptom of something catastrophic going on, BUT:
If your headache is getting worse and worse during the first 24-48 hours, is associated with vomiting, blurry vision and/or drowsiness you should consult a doctor or go to emergency.
How does it feel?
There are many different ways to experience a headache after a concussion. Here are some descriptions:
- Steady or intermittent
- Dull ache
- Feels like a tight helmet
Some teens feel nauseous with their headaches.
It’s important to know that having a headache generally does not mean that you are hurting or damaging your brain.
What can trigger or make your headache worse?
- Exercise and physical exertion, see Return to Physical Activity
- Brain work: concentrating, homework, computer work
- Eye fatigue: vision changes are common and can make it more tiring to focus on a screen or book
- Bright light and/or noise
- Poor sleep/lack of sleep
- Poor posture/positioning
Add to My Recovery Plan 📒
Here are some common strategies that many teenagers find helpful. You can chose the one that you would like to add to your personalized Recovery Plan.
Other Healthy Strategies that May Help
Seek advice and treatment from a physiotherapist since your headaches may be due to a neck injury (like whiplash). Ice, heat and stretching can be helpful.
Physiotherapy and massage therapy can help your muscles to relax.
You may benefit from medication to not just treat each headache but prevent them from coming as often or as severely. Talk to your doctor about this.
If you are worried about your headaches, they interfere with school, or they are getting worse over time, get advice from your doctor.
If you have a family or personal history of migraines, (a special type of headache) – you may develop migraines after concussion.
If your headaches do not respond to the techniques listed above, you should consult your doctor or get a referral to a specialist.