Having a headache after a car accident is a pretty common occurrence. So, you may be thinking its no big deal. But waiting to get it checked out is a mistake. Sometimes head pain from a headache will go away on its own. But other times it’s a sign of a much more serious traumatic brain injury (TBI). Whether the head pain is immediate, a constant headache that won’t go away, or a delayed headache after a car accident, evaluation by a doctor shortly after the symptoms start is important. The bottom line is that the only way to know for sure if the pain is a symptom of a serious head injury is to get checked out by a health care professional as soon as possible. Often the doctor will order a CT scan or MRI to visualize the inside of your head and to aide in diagnosing the severity of your injury.
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Sometimes post traumatic headaches do not last very long and other times they can last for weeks. In addition, headaches can become chronic, meaning they come and go for the rest of your life. More importantly, a headache after a car accident may be a sign of a much more severe injury.
There are many different reasons you may be complaining that your head hurts. Identifying the cause of the headache may help determine the severity of your injury. Below are common causes of headaches after a car accident.
Traumatic Brain Injury: Any type of injury to the head caused by impact or violent movement is considered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). There are two main ways to get a TBI in a car accident. The first is a direct blow to the head. The second is the violent whipping movement back and forth of the head and neck. The immediate concern with this type of injury is swelling. Because the brain is confined by the skull, swelling of the brain can cause tremendous amounts of internal pressure. Signs of a serious head injury include:
- Headache with vomiting
- Severe headache that does not go away
- Loss of consciousness
- Memory loss
- Lethargy or severe sleepiness
This type of head injury could be life threatening. If your experiencing any of these symptoms its important to get checked out by a doctor right away.
Head Trauma: The violent movement in a car accident can cause your head to hit some part of the inside of the car. Common impact points include the steering wheel, the door window, the side pillar, or any object that is not secured inside the car. In addition to a headache, this type of direct blow to the head can cause a skull fracture, brain damage, or internal bleeding into the brain. If this happens you could be suffering from a severe brain injury. After head trauma, an immediate CT scan should be performed to rule out a serious head injury.
Whiplash Headache: Your head does not have to hit anything inside the car to suffer injury. Whiplash headache is most often caused by a rear end car accident. The severe whipping back and forth of the head and neck during a car accident can cause the brain to hit the inside of the skull. It can also cause the nerves, tendons, and muscles near the neck to get irritated. These injured body parts can send pain messages to your brain in the form of a headache. Although this type of headache can be temporary, it can last for days or weeks. In addition, sometimes a whiplash headache can lead to chronic headaches that come and go.
Concussion: A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury. It happens when the brain moves back and forth hitting the inside of the skull. The brain is damaged but there is no internal bleeding. Although usually temporary, it can be a permanent injury. Symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Head pain
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
- Light sensitivity
Initial treatment for a concussion is bed rest, limited strenuous thinking, and no strenuous physical activities. This will give the brain time to heal. Follow up treatment may include visiting a neurologist.
Brain Bleed: A brain bleed inside the head, also called an intercranial hematoma, can occur by itself or it can occur with a concussion. The bleeding happens because blood vessels inside the skull tear or rupture. Types of internal bleeding into the brain include a subdural hematoma and a subarachnoid hematoma. If the bleeding does not stop, it can cause all kinds of internal pressure. This is often a life-threatening condition.
Hypertension Headache: Believe it or not, high blood pressure can cause a headache after a car accident. The stress of going through a car accident can cause the blood pressure of people with hypertension to rise. This rapid rise in blood pressure can cause a headache, blurred vision, chest pain, and nausea. It can also cause a blood vessel to burst leading to a brain bleed.
Tension Headaches: This is the most common type of headache. It happens in car accident when the trauma causes the muscles of the head, scalp, or neck to tighten up or contract. This buildup of tension creates the head pain.
Occipital Neuralgia: The occipital nerves run from where the spinal column meets the neck up the back of the head. If one of these nerves is pinched, the compression will cause pain signals to run up the neck and into the head. Symptoms of this type of headache include chronic pain that is piercing, throbbing, or eclectic shock from the upper neck into the back of the head and behind the ears. It is often on one side of the head. Treatment for occipital neuralgia may include message and rest. Sometimes nerve block injections and steroid injections are helpful.
If your headache goes away and never comes back, you probably do not need to higher a car accident lawyer. Its when you suffer from an ongoing traumatic brain injury, chronic headaches, or episodic headaches, that a lawyer can help you hold the person that caused your injury accountable for your damages.