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Headaches are very common after an auto accident, typically referred to as post-traumatic headaches. These headaches can be caused by a blow to the head like striking the steering wheel, window or other compartment or by whiplash, which is a violent jolting back and forth of the neck after being hit. Post-traumatic headaches share clinical symptoms and fall in the clinical cause category similar to primary headaches. Symptoms include dull, aching pain, sensation of tightness or pressure across the forehead or sides of the head, tenderness on the neck, shoulders, and scalp, and even loss of appetite. 

Types of Post-Traumatic Headaches

  • Musculoskeletal headaches
  • Chronic facial headaches
  • Nerve dysfunction headaches
  • Vascular headaches
  • Migraine headaches
  • Cervicothoracic somatic dysfunction headaches
  • Chronic daily headaches
  • Tension-type headaches
  • Cluster headaches

Headaches can also be of two forms: chronic and episodic. Episodic headaches are considered those that occur less than 15 times in a month and chronic headaches are those that occur more than 15 times in a month for a series of three months or more. These headaches can be very painful and debilitating. Post-traumatic headaches can affect one’s quality of life which in turn affects relationships, social and physical activities, work/school attendance, productivity, and ability to plan for the future. It is also very common for headache symptoms to be delayed and surface days, weeks or even months following the accident. 

Headaches can be an indication of a more serious health issue especially after an auto accident such as a traumatic brain injury, post-concussion syndrome, or even a closed head injury which can be a concussion, contusion, or brain hemorrhage. It is especially important to make your primary care provider aware of any form of headache you’re experiencing so they can be followed and observed aggressively to determine the source. After an auto accident, it is significantly important to be evaluated for post-auto accident treatment which commonly includes chiropractic care, physical therapy, medical or deep tissue massage, and spinal decompression. 

Take the following case scenario and consider the positive results of post-auto accident evaluation and treatment:

A 65-year old female was experiencing neck pain, back pain and headaches six days after an auto accident in which she was rear-ended. She complained that she was able to fulfill most of her daily activities but she was feeling dull lower back pain and occipital, pressure-like headaches. Her past history revealed that she was involved in an auto accident 6 years ago as well in which she treated with a chiropractor and her symptoms subsided. After her physical examination, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic MVA sprain/strain of her neck and low back as well as cervicogenic headache. Prescribed treatment included tissue therapy (massage) to the neck and low back, a therapeutic stretching program and spinal adjustments. She reported an 80% improvement in her symptoms and range of motion after about 9 visits and then she followed up with continued care to maintain. Later down the road, she was treated for a numbing sensation in her right arm which was relative to her history of post-MVA pain. She was referred out for a CT scan and received decompression therapy which resolved her symptoms completely. 

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