We’ve all had a headache before, whether it is from a lack of sleep, an odd position of the neck, or one brought on by stress. While we know how to identify these as headaches, and something we want to treat or avoid in the future, many people don’t realize that headaches can take a variety of forms. This can be especially true when the cause of your headache is an injury or traumatic event like a car accident. If you are experiencing headaches after an accident, speak with a chiropractor in Atlanta so they can use your specific symptoms to determine the type of headache you are suffering from and what that might mean about other injuries you sustained.
1. Post-Traumatic Headaches
These headaches are brought on by trauma to the head and neck during something like a car accident, fall, or another injury. One of the signs of a post-traumatic headache is that it starts with pain in the neck and radiates upwards, presenting as a headache. This will usually occur within hours or days of the accident, but further delays are not uncommon as the shock and adrenaline of the event wear off. These headaches are sometimes in response to simple injuries, but may also be indicative of more severe trauma like brain damage and should always be evaluated at a nearby chiropractor in Atlanta.
2. Concussion Headaches
A concussion is an injury to the brain, typically caused by a blow to the head or a sudden and violent jolt, which can impact the way the brain works. While the brain is usually protected by a special fluid, these movements can cause the brain to strike the skull walls, causing bruising. The headaches that result from a concussion are often compared to migraine headaches, including symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, confusion, dizziness, ringing in the ears, or even memory loss. You may hear this referred to as post-concussive syndrome.
3. Muscle Strain/Spasm Headaches
Even without a severe trauma to the head or neck, headaches can be caused by any injury or strain to the muscles of the head, neck, or upper back. This is especially likely during a car accident where a sudden impact may cause soft tissue in these areas to strain or spasm. In addition to a headache, symptoms may include a reduced range of motion, pain during movement, tenderness or redness in the affected area, and swelling.
4. Whiplash Headaches
What do headaches after an accident mean? Similar to muscle strain and spasm headaches, a whiplash headache occurs when the soft tissue in the neck and shoulders is damaged. In this case, the damage is caused by whiplash, or a sudden back and forth movement of the head that stretches tissues beyond their normal capacity. A whiplash headache usually begins at the base of the skull and is accompanied by pain or stiffness in the neck. Other symptoms may include visual disturbances, dizziness, fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, or trouble sleeping.
Whiplash headaches are the most likely type of headache to be delated, usually showing up days or even weeks after the initial event.
5. Fracture Headaches
A fracture to the skull or neck can cause intense headaches that begin in the neck or back of the head and radiate to nearby areas. They can also be more localized to the injury site and may be exacerbated by related brain injuries. Depending on the type, severity, and location of the fracture, symptoms may include nausea, confusion, stiff neck, slurred speech, and even seizures.
6. Pinched Nerve Headaches
During an accident, compression of the spine or injuries like herniated discs can often cause spinal nerves to be compressed at their root. This leads to irritation of the greater occipital nerve, located at the base of the skull, which can cause symptoms like pain, tenderness, burning, numbness, and tingling from the base of the skull up the back of the head. The area may also be tender to the touch.
Addressing a Headache After a Car Accident
It may feel normal to have a headache after an event like a car accident, even if it is just from the stress of the event. This is true in some cases, but headaches can have a range of causes, including severe or even life-threatening brain damage. Sometimes these may not become clear until long after the accident itself.
After an accident, it is important to find a chiropractor in Atlanta near you for an evaluation—especially if you have a headache. AICA Atlanta is available for full evaluations, consultations, and treatment plans based on your type of headache and the injuries behind the headache. Call us today to get started!