It is common to have headaches immediately after a traumatic brain injury. Different types of headaches are possible that can range in severity.
According to the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center, persistent headaches affect over 30% of people with moderate to severe TBI long after the injury. Here are some of the different types of headaches that can occur.
1. Cervicogenic headaches
Cervicogenic headaches occur because of injuries to the soft tissues in the back of the head and neck. They can start in the shoulders, neck or back of the head and travel up over the top. The pain can result because nerves in the tissues and bones in the neck have branches that extend up to the skull.
2. Migraine headaches
Damage from a TBI may cause a portion of the brain to become hypersensitive. This can trigger a pain signal that, like ripples in a puddle of water after a pebble drops into it, can spread to other areas of the brain.
Migraine pain can range from moderate to severe. It usually occurs on only one side of the head and is dull and throbbing in quality. It can cause sensitivity to light and sound as well as nausea or vomiting.
3. Tension headaches
A tension headache is a mild-to-moderate pain. It may occur on both sides of the head or feel as though there is something tight encircling the head and squeezing it.
Tension headaches may occur because of stress that may relate to the injury and the recovery process. However, brain injuries can cause muscle spasms that can also contribute to tension headaches.