by Edward Lockwood, DPT
Do you have continuing headaches after a recent or past concussion?
Patients who have experienced concussions may have continuing headaches, but it is often assumed that the headache is due to the concussion. However, the lingering headaches may be due to corresponding neck injury from the whiplash that occurred during the concussion episode. Whiplash occurs when the neck is injured due to the rapid acceleration-deceleration of the neck. This results in cervical muscle strain, potential cervical ligament sprain, and injury to the cervical facet joints. These are the most common injuries following whiplash that can lead to cervicogenic headaches.
Cervicogenic headaches are caused by abnormal increased muscle tension in the muscles at the base of the skull. It typically presents as a radiating dull headache that feels as if it is traveling from the base of the head or neck to the top of the head, and often to the forehead/ eyebrows. There are several types of headaches aside from cervicogenic headaches, including tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Each type of headache has varying signs and symptoms, and can be addressed with different treatment interventions.
Typically the most common treatment for cervicogenic headaches is physical therapy. There are several manual techniques and exercises that can be performed to treat acute and chronic cervicogenic headaches following concussion and/or whiplash injury. Some of these treatments includes manual therapy to decrease tightness/ muscular strain, specific neck stretches and exercises, and posture re-training.