Post-traumatic migraines are migraine headaches that usually start within a week of a head injury. The symptoms are often moderate to severe and may include throbbing pain, nausea and a heightened sensitivity to light and sound.
Studies indicate that some post-traumatic migraines may resolve without intervention within about three months. Nevertheless, in many cases, these headaches persist much longer. The persistent migraines are most common among people who are female, already suffer from chronic headaches or have family members who have migraines. The severity of the head trauma does not appear to correlate with the duration of the headache symptoms.
The cause of post-traumatic migraines is not fully understood, but the headaches are believed to be associated with the release of specific brain chemicals. Additionally, in some cases, post-traumatic migraines may be due to swelling in portions of the brain or even to shrinking brain structures. Some studies suggest that the nerve tissue within the brain is disrupted from the force of the trauma.
Greater amounts of activity may trigger a headache. The severity of post-traumatic migraine symptoms appears to escalate as activity levels increase.
Among those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, approximately 30 to 90 percent suffer from post-traumatic headaches. In fact, about two percent of Americans are disabled from these headaches.
Six months after a head or neck injury, about 45 percent of people still have chronic headaches. Additionally, after a year of post-traumatic headaches, 20 percent of patients will likely have the headaches permanently.
People with post-traumatic migraines may find it difficult to perform routine daily functions. The condition can be quite debilitating, preventing regular work and social activities.