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Post-Traumatic Headache

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Post-Traumatic Headache


A post-traumatic headache can happen after an injury or trauma to the head and neck. Treatment may help ease symptoms.

Head and Neck.

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A post-traumatic headache is caused by trauma to the head and neck. The headache may be due to:

  • Blood or fluid buildup inside the skull
  • Changes in the brain caused by the injury
  • Neck and skull injuries that are still healing
  • Tension and stress

Risk Factors

Anyone who has had a head injury has a higher risk for a post-traumatic headache.


Symptoms may start right after the injury or as it is healing. A person may have:

  • Head and neck pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Problems with focus
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Mood and personality changes


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. The doctor will also ask about any recent trauma to the head, neck, or face. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.


The goal of treatment is to manage headaches until the person has healed. Complete rest is rarely needed.

There is no specific treatment for post-traumatic headaches. They are managed in ways similar to other headaches.

Medicines may help ease headache pain. These may be:

  • Over the counter medicines, such as ibuprofen
  • Antidepressants
  • Triptans
  • Muscle relaxants

Some people may find other methods helpful, such as:

  • More physical activity
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Physical therapy

It is not clear how effective these treatments are for a post-traumatic headache.


There are no known guidelines to lower the risk of a post-traumatic headache.





  • Headaches after head injuries—post-traumatic headaches. Brainline website. Available at: https://www.brainline.org/article/headaches-after-head-injuries-post-traumatic-headaches.
  • Headaches after traumatic brain injury. Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center website. Available at: http://www.msktc.org/tbi/factsheets/Headaches-After-Traumatic-Brain-Injury.
  • Post-traumatic headache. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: https://headaches.org/post-traumatic-headache.
  • Posttraumatic headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/posttraumatic-headache.
  • Schwedt TJ. Post-traumatic headache due to mild traumatic brain injury: Current knowledge and future directions. Cephalalgia. 2021;41(4):464-471.


  • April Scott, NP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.