I’m Tony Baratta. Today, I wanted to talk to you about post-traumatic headaches as a consequence of a traumatic brain injury. Of the 1.7 million people who are in the emergency room every year for a traumatic brain injury, 80-90% are going to have a post-traumatic headache and post-traumatic headache syndrome.
Fortunately, in the large majority of those people, the symptoms will resolve in weeks or months. In a small percentage of people, however, the headaches will continue for a long period of time. There are two issues. One, trying to prove the connectedness of that headache to the brain injury, and two, how to treat it.
Connecting the headache to the brain injury
Let’s start with the issue of connecting the post-traumatic headache to the brain injury. In medicine, it is said that if the person hasn’t experienced that post-traumatic headache within seven days of the injury, then it’s very difficult to relate it to the traumatic brain injury.
However, I’ve seen my clients begin to suffer the effects of their post-traumatic headache syndrome many weeks after their traumatic brain injury. Why is that?
Primarily, it’s because most of these people have been treating other injuries suffered in the traumatic event, like fractures or lacerations. And they’ve been taking pain medication and receiving other kinds of treatment for those injuries. So it’s not until those injuries start to resolve that they begin to experience the effects of the post-traumatic headache.
A prior history of headaches
Secondly, the people who have these post-traumatic headaches that last a long period of time and start more than seven days after the event, are typically people who have had a prior history of headaches. What these people say, however, is that the headaches they had after the traumatic brain injury are different in quality and nature than those they had experienced before the injury.
A headache log
So we give our clients what is known as a headache log. This allows them to record and draw on a piece of paper, on a picture of a head, exactly where they’re feeling the headache. They also record how often they’re feeling the headache and the intensity of the headache. Then they take these headache logs to their treating doctor who can address it.
How do you treat these post-traumatic headaches? Well, the medical science is still limited. Medical doctors can do surgery. They can prescribe medication, or they can prescribe therapy such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy.
But there are other types of treatment that a headache sufferer can receive that I and my clients have found beneficial. These include acupuncture and chiropractic care. It’s also very important to exercise. Exercise increases the heart rate and the amount of blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
So I encourage my clients in all of these instances to think outside the box and ask their doctors to think outside the box as well.
My name is Tony Baratta, and I hope this has been helpful.