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Headaches & Migraines After a Car Accident or Head Injury

Accidents and injuries happen on a daily basis, whether it is a motor vehicle accident, workplace accident, sports related injury, a physical attack, a simple slip and fall, or chemical (allergic to something) — headaches are a common occurrence.

There are 2 main causes of headaches after a motor vehicle accident or head injury.

  • Injuries to the cervical spine (neck)
  • Injuries to the brain

Headaches from a Neck Injury

Subluxations, or misalignments to the vertebrae in the spine, are common. In fact, you don’t have to experience an accident or injury for your spine to become misaligned. I am sure each of us has experienced waking up in the morning with a stiff neck from sleeping in the wrong position. Stress (physical, emotional, and chemical) can cause subluxations, and so can bad posture. When there is a subluxation in the cervical spine (neck), the vertebrae can put pressure on nerves (pinched nerve), irritate the nerves and causes inflammation. These can cause headaches. Correcting the subluxations will remove the pressure on your nerves, reducing inflammation and allow your headaches to go away.

Man with a migraine headacheWhen you have a neck injury it is important to have this checked as soon as possible. An injury, even if you don’t initially experience pain, can cause disc degeneration, protrusions, and osteoarthritis. So, it is important to set an appointment with us as soon as possible so any damage can be corrected.

Whiplash is a common neck injury in an accident (see our article on whiplash) and depending on the severity of your whiplash, not only could the vertebrae in your neck get out of alignment (subluxation), but your neck can lose its proper curve (a C-shape facing backward) and end up straight, or even bending the wrong way. Whenever there are subluxations in the neck, the nerves that exit the vertebrae of your cervical spine will be pinched, irritated, or have interference — any of which can cause headaches.

Neck injuries that cause headaches can also happen when you slip and fall and the vertebrae in the spine gets misaligned. Often, after a slip and fall injury, many people do not realize they have been injured until after a few days or weeks have passed. Since only 10% of your nervous system feels pain, you may not realize the extent of your injuries immediately.

Sports injuries are another source of headaches from a neck injury. Athletes, particularly in contact sports, can experience headaches due to subluxations in the neck. Sports like soccer have regular contact between the head and the ball. Football players can experience head-to-head contact. Running produces an impact shock that propagates through the body. The proper curve of your neck acts as a shock absorber to help protect the brain from injury. It is highly recommended that athletes seek immediate care from a chiropractor to make sure their spine is in proper alignment so it functions properly (protection of the nervous system), which in turn helps them perform better as an athlete. Any injury to the neck, pain, or headache, should be checked as soon as possible.

Muscle Spasm Headaches
After an accident or injury, the damage to the muscles in the neck and upper back can cause the muscles to spasm and pull at the neck, causing misalignments and headaches. This is very common after a vehicle accident. Along with the headache, it is common to experience pain and tenderness, along with inflammation to the damaged soft tissues.

Headache from a Concussion or Brain Injury

Post-Concussive Headaches
Concussions are a common brain injury. A blow to the head, or a violent and sudden jolt, can cause a concussion. You can get a concussion from a fall, being hit, an auto accident, or any action that causes the brain to come into violent contact with the skull.

Concussions often have these symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Balance problems
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • More

Whiplash Headaches
Often in a whiplash injury, the brain is jostled and banged around inside the skull. The soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) areas of the neck are violently pulled and strained, the vertebrae in the neck becomes mal-aligned — leading to headaches, neck pain, dizziness, and in the more severe cases even concussions.

Fracture Headaches
A fracture to the skull or the vertebrae in the neck can cause headaches at the location of the injury or commonly at the back of the head. The severity of these headaches depends on the type and extent of the fracture. These headaches will often include additional symptoms similar to a concussion.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches from an accident or injury are often due to sustaining a concussion during the accident. Auras can occur during a migraine, or before the migraine headache. Auras are typically a visual disturbance, although they can also manifest as speech or verbal disturbances, touching sensations (sensory), or movement disturbances. Auras can visually range from seeing spots and flashing lights to temporary vision loss.

Migraine headaches can last from 4 – 73 hours, and may include:

  • Pulsating or throbbing pain
  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting and/or nausea
  • Lightheadedness and even fainting

Contact Dr. Gary Olson to Treat Your Headaches

At Long Island Spine & Sports Injury Center, Dr. Gary Olson will work to find the underlying cause of your headaches and correct it, allowing you to resume your normal lifestyle. Finding the cause of your headache is extremely important. At our office we will run orthopedic, neurological, and physical exams to determine the cause of your headaches. We will get any necessary x-rays, MRI’s or other testing as needed. Once we have the results of these tests, we can review them and develop the best treatment for you.

Our goal is to correct your problem, reduce swelling and inflammation, and help you become headache free. We will make adjustments to your spine to realign the spine and get the joints and bones to move properly. In addition to the chiropractic adjustment, we also do things like electric muscle stimulation, heat and cold therapy, massage therapy, as well as rehabilitative exercises to strengthen and stabilize your spine, or rehabilitate the spinal muscles and other soft tissue injuries so that we correct the problem all the way.

Contact Dr. Gary Olson at Long Island Spine & Sports Injury Center at (631) 462-0917 if you are experiencing headaches due to accidents and injuries. You can also use our appointment form. Keep in mind that leaving an injury such as a headache caused by an accident untreated can lead to other degenerative problems in the future. If you know someone who can benefit from this article, please recommend it to your friends and family.

© 2017-18 Dr. Gary Olson DC, PC, The Long Island Spine & Sports Injury Center

These articles are the property of Dr. Gray Olson DC, PC. They may not be reused without permission. You are welcome to link to this article. Dr. Gary Olson has been proudly serving Long Island, NY since 1999.

The contents of this website are based upon the opinions and experience of Dr. Olson. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience, training, and research of Dr. Olson. Dr. Olson recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.

Contact us at 631.462.0917 to set an appointment.