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Early Concussion Education

Post-traumatic Headaches

Post-traumatic headache (when you have regular headaches after a concussion) is one of the most common symptoms following a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury. Post-traumatic headaches will gradually get better and usually go away with time. It’s important to do what you can to prevent and manage your pain and improve your well-being.

Here are some ways you can prevent or reduce post-traumatic headaches:

  • Don’t overdo it. Pushing yourself too hard mentally or physically can trigger a post-traumatic headache. Go back to your regular activities very slowly, and learn how to use your energy wisely.
  • Eat healthy foods and do not skip meals — especially breakfast. Being hungry can trigger a headache.
  • Don’t drink alcohol and limit caffeine. Foods and drinks affect your brain and can change the size of your blood vessels. You may find that certain foods and drinks (alcohol and caffeine are common ones) can trigger your headaches.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated. If your body doesn’t have enough water, it can trigger a headache. Try drinking about 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking affects your blood and blood vessels and can cause headaches. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about gradually cutting down your smoking habits.
  • Get a good sleep. Try to get at least 6 to 8 hours per night and stick to the same sleep schedule. Practice good sleep hygiene.
  • If you get a headache, lie down or sleep in a dark, quiet place. Try to lie down before the headache gets bad.
  • Sleep in a position that supports your neck and arms to keep your muscles relaxed. Talk to your physiotherapist about the best sleeping position for you.
  • If you have whiplash that is causing your headaches, see a physiotherapist, massage therapist, or acupuncturist.
  • Remember to stretch your neck and upper body, especially if you work at a desk, in front of a computer, or behind the wheel.
  • When you have a headache that starts at your neck or the back of your head, using a hot pack or having a shower can help relax tense muscles.
  • Get a healthy amount of exercise. Exercise keeps the body and mind healthy in many ways, including the release of endorphins, natural painkillers.
  • Try swimming or other activities in water. A warm water pool may prevent some headaches.
  • Going from a dark building out into the bright sunlight can trigger headaches. Try wearing dark, wraparound sunglasses.
  • If watching TV or a computer screen gives you a headache, try to spend less time in front of screens and take lots of breaks.
  • If noise triggers a headache for you, then turn down the volume, go to a quiet place, or wear earplugs.
  • Learn healthy ways to manage stress. Try relaxation strategies—meditation, biofeedback, deep breathing, gentle yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, guided, or mental imagery.
  • Keep a headache journal. Use a calendar to track what you do each day and rate your headaches on a 1 to 10 scale, with "1" being no headache and "10" being the worst headache. You may start seeing connections between what you do each day and your headaches.
  • Sometimes medicine can help headaches. Medicine can:
    • help with pain that you already have, or
    • stop headaches from getting started in the first place.
  • Ask your doctor if medicine could help you with your headaches.
    • Using too much pain medicine can cause headaches. If you use pain medicine more than 3 days per week, ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

Write it down! Print off the “Strategies to Try” Journal. Choose 2 or 3 ideas to try this week.