Post-Traumatic Headache

How to Say It: Post Truh-mat-ick Head-ak


A post-traumatic headache can happen after an injury or trauma to the head and neck.

Head and Neck

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

  • 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 is at greater risk for this type of headache.


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

  • Head and neck pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Focus problems
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Mood and personality changes


You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked 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.

Medicines may be given to help manage headache pain. These may be:

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


There are no known guidelines to lower the risk of this problem.


Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Headache Foundation


The College of Family Physicians of Canada


Headaches after head injuries—post-traumatic headaches. Brainline website. Available at: Accessed September 11, 2020.
Headaches after traumatic brain injury. Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center website. Available at:
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Accessed September 11, 2020.
Post-traumatic headache. National Headache Foundation website. Available at:
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Posttraumatic headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed September 11, 2020.
Riechers RG 2nd, Walker MF, et al. Post-traumatic headaches. Handb Clin Neurol. 2015;128:567-578.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN

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