Have you ever collided playing sports, fallen off a horse, or been in an auto accident? Were you ever injured in the military, been a victim of domestic violence, or had a concussion? Any one of these incidents can lead to a traumatic brain injury. A recent study suggests that these types of injuries resulted in years of painful migraines and headaches for 80% of the participants in the study.

What Constitutes a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says a jolt, bump or blow to the head can cause a TBI, or a penetrating type of head injury that results in the disruption of normal brain functioning.

The CDC also goes on to say that not every blow or jolt to the head will cause a TBI. There are variations in the severity of TBIs, from “mild,” which would be a brief change in consciousness or mental status, to “severe,” which would be a lengthy period of memory loss or being in a state of unconsciousness after the head injury. The majority of TBIs occurring every year are mild and commonly referred to as concussions.

traumatic brain injury migraine headache

Symptoms of TBI Don’t Necessarily Show Up Right Away

According to the CDC, the symptoms of a concussion or TBI usually fall into four separate categories:

Cognitive Impairment

  • Difficulty focusing and/or concentrating
  • Difficulty remembering and/or retaining new information
  • Fuzzy or confused thinking
  • Mentally slowed down

Physical Signs and Symptoms

  • Balance problems
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling nauseous and/or vomiting early on
  • Headaches and/or migraines
  • Sensitivity to light or noise

Changes in Mood

  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Unusually irritable

Sleep Problems

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Sleeping less, more or longer than usual

Research Discovers TBI Headaches Persist for Years

Someone suffering a traumatic brain injury is most likely to report having a headache, but this can persist and affect patients 5 years after being injured.

A study published in June 2016, called “Post-traumatic Headache 5 Years after Traumatic Brain Injury,” tracked over 300 people who had been admitted for inpatient rehabilitation. The majority of them were diagnosed as having moderate to severe TBIs. Their symptoms were recorded at 3, 6, 12, and 60 months after injury. Throughout these 5 years, the prevalence of headaches, classification, frequency, and pain rating were recorded and compared to the period before the injury. 

The results revealed a high prevalence of brand new or worsening headaches when compared to headaches for subjects in the group prior to their head injury. At least one-third of subjects with a TBI had new or worsening headaches each time they were assessed. Just 17% of these patients experienced headaches before their injury.

This means that 80% of subjects who were suffering from headaches or migraines traced their onset back to the concussion.

More Than Half of TBIs Cause Migraines

Over the length of the 5-year study, more than 50% of the reported headaches were classified as either probable migraine or migraine. More than one-third of research subjects reported having a headache every day or several times a week.

Sylvia Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of this study and clinical professor at University of Washington Medical Center says, “Headaches occurring after a traumatic brain injury should not be ignored. This study illuminates the need for education among those taking care of people with traumatic brain injury.” She went on to say, “The frequency and intensity as well as the profound effect headaches are having on daily functioning must be recorded to provide more effective headache treatments. The continual suffering of agonizing headaches after a head injury should not be accepted as the only option for patients.”

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Treatments for Headaches & Migraines Related to TBI

A trained medical professional should be there to immediately evaluate someone with a TBI. This could be a doctor present on the sidelines, a paramedic or in an Emergency Room. The Brain Injury Association of America has come out with a very good summary of the kind of care that they recommend, depending on how serious the head injury is. 

It goes without saying that if your TBI is causing headaches or migraines that have gone on for years, you should receive treatment at a specialized headache clinic or by a board-certified headache specialist.

In the end, concussions and TBIs are very serious injuries that can have a severe impact on the quality of your life. It may not be possible to reverse the injury itself, however you can receive help for the painful recurring headaches, migraines and the other symptoms they cause.

TBI Attorneys

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the negligence of another, it is important to contact a traumatic brain injury attorney right away. A traumatic brain injury attorney will make sure you have the resources necessary for the evaluation and diagnosis of your injury, so you have the best chance to fully recover. Contact O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley and we will provide you with a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney today.

(Source: Migraine Again )

Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP

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