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Traumatic Brain Injury - Headaches

Karns & Kerrison

Traumatic Brain Injuries can cause headaches usually classified in a catch-all term known as post-traumatic headaches. There are many types of headaches that can occur following a traumatic brain injury including:

  • Cervicogenic Headaches - This type of headache occurs when there has been injury to the muscles and soft tissues in the neck in back of the head causing muscle spasms that result in headaches. The branchlike nerves in the back of the head (occipital) become inflamed causing headaches. This type of headache classically comes up from the back of the neck over the back of the head up to the top of the head.
  • Migraine Headaches - These headaches occur because an area of the brain becomes hypersensitive and triggers pain signals that spread out to other parts of the brain. These types of headaches can consist of a dull throbbing sensation, can cause nausea or vomiting and can cause sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Tension Headaches - These headaches are associated with muscle tension, anxiety and stress and can give a squeezing sensation around the entire head. These headaches can occur later in the day as fatigue sets in.
  • Musculoskeletal Headaches - Caused by pain in the muscles or bones of the head causing a source of head pain.
  • Temboromandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ) - Occurs when the muscles around the jaw and TMJ joint are damaged with the head injury causing TMJ headaches usually on the side of the head near the temples.
  • Neuralgic Pain - Injury to the nerves in the scalp or larger nerves in the face can cause this type of head pain.
  • Rebound Headaches - Can be caused by medication either when too much medication is being taken or when medication is taken on a regular basis and one or two doses are missed.

It is not unusual for a traumatic brain injury victim to have two or more types of these headaches.

These headaches can be caused by traumatic brain injuries caused by:

  • Open Head Injury - When the skull is penetrated be an object.
  • Closed Head Injury - When the skull is struck but there is no penetration.
  • Deceleration Injury or Coup-Contrecoup - Caused when the accelerating person stops suddenly causing the brain to smash back and forth inside the skull. This type of injury is very common in motor vehicle accidents.
  • Chemicals or Toxins - Caused by exposure to insecticides, solvents or carbon monoxide all causing brain damage.
  • Hypoxia or Anoxia - Caused by a lack or reduction of oxygen to the brain.
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