Post Traumatic Headache

Post Traumatic Headache

Nathan Zasler, M.D.
Post traumatic headache is a common complaint and symptom after head trauma or brain injury. This tip card explains various causes and types of headaches after a concussion, traumatic brain injury, head trauma or neck injury. It discusses options for treatment with tips for talking with your doctor about headaches after trauma.
Item: PTH
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Full Description

Effects of trauma related headaches can range from temporary to long term discomfort, from annoying mild symptoms to disabling severe pain. This tip card explains how physicians assess headaches and pain with tips for management of headache pain after a head injury. It describes common types of headaches including musculoskeletal, cervical, temporomandiular, tension, neuritic and migraine.
Item PTH
Pages 8
Year 2007, second printing


Nathan Zasler, M.D.

Dr. Zasler's research is in medical rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury, rehabilitation of post concussive disorders, neurotrauma and neurorehabilitation. He is CEO and Director of the Concussion Care Centre of Virginia and Tree of Life Services, Inc. He also serves as a Professor at the University of Virginia, Medical College of Virginia and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. 


This tip card helps individuals, family members and clinicians...

  • recognize causes of headache
  • understand methods of assessment
  • manage post-traumatic headache

Headaches after Trauma

Sources of Head Pain

The Doctor’s Evaluation

Types of Headaches

  • Musculoskeletal headache
  • Cervical / cervicogenic headache
  • Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJD)
  • Tension type headache
  • Neuritic and neuralgic pain
  • Neurovascular or migraine headache

Pain Management




Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy.

Headache after Trauma

The most common physical complaint in up to 70% of all people with a mild brain injury or concussion is headache. It also occurs after more severe brain injury, but is not reported as frequently for some unknown reason. When people seek medical care after a concussion, head trauma or neck whiplash injury, they are often diagnosed with "post-traumatic headache" (PTHA). This is really a catchall phrase. It tells nothing about the headache’s cause or how to treat it.

Sources of Head Pain

There are many different sources of head and neck pain, both inside and outside the head. The brain is not a source of pain as it has no feeling. There are many other areas of the body that can cause headaches. Sometimes it is easy to identify and treat these sites. Other times, it is far more complicated.

Your doctor may ask questions about your injury to better understand the cause(s) of your headache. For example, if you were in a car crash, the doctor may question you about seat restraints and the speed of the vehicle. Information will be gathered about any history of direct blows to your head or body and any history of head, neck and whiplash injury.

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