Headaches from car accidents

Anyone who has suffered from a major headache or a migraine can tell you how debilitating they can be. In some cases, a car accident can cause injuries that result in severe and persistent headaches.

These post-traumatic headaches can be life-altering for those suffering from them, and they may not manifest until days after the initial injury. Furthermore, the severity of the headaches may not be directly proportional to the severity of the auto accident; a seemingly minor collision can still result in serious headache problems.

One of the obvious possible causes of post-auto accident headaches is a direct blow to the head during the accident, such as those caused by colliding with the steering wheel, roof or window. A perhaps less obvious cause is damage in the neck from a violent or sudden whipping movement during impact. Damaged or pinched nerves in the neck or shoulders can cause persistent headaches, as well.

Those who suffer headaches after auto accidents may experience them in different ways and levels of severity, whether it be a prolonged, dull pain or sharp, tight pains.

Tension Headaches 

These types of headaches come in the form of short bouts of pain and tension to week-long ordeals. Auto accident victims experience them at various intervals, but those who suffer the headaches for at least half of the time in a month are diagnosed with chronic tension headaches; anything less is considered episodic.

Treatments for tension headaches include medication, relaxation therapy, cognitive therapy, massage, stretch exercises and heat applications.

Source: Mayo Clinic


Migraines tend to affect women more than men, but they can affect anybody, and when they do strike, migraines can last from a few hours to several days. Migraines typically cause pain in any or several areas of the head simultaneously, and those who suffer may experience nausea or vomiting.

Treatments for migraines include resting away from bright lights, using cold or hot compresses, medications, massages and nerve stimulation.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Post-traumatic headaches

Post-traumatic headaches are quite common following a traumatic brain injury, and they can resemble either migraine, tension headaches or both. The International Headache Society defines a post-traumatic headache (PTH) as a headache that develops within one full week of the initial injury or after the victim has regained consciousness. The headaches may vary widely in severity, but the effects are similar to both migraines and tensions headaches, including nausea and dizziness. Some cases of PTH are treatable with anti-inflammatory medication, but severe cases may require stronger medication and physical therapy.

Other treatment options for PTH include biofeedback and relaxation therapy, prescription pain medicines, nerve stimulation and behavioral therapy.

Source: American Migraine Foundation

Headaches following an auto accident may also indicate something more severe, such as an undetected brain injury. Accident victims who begin to suddenly experience headaches should seek medical help immediately.