The Caregiver's Journey

Headaches

Headaches are common following TBI. Some people have a headache all the time, and some people’s headaches come and go.

Fatigue, stress, and a history of migraines make these headaches worse. Fortunately, post-TBI headaches usually improve over time.

Treatment Options:

Medication: It can take some trial and error to find the right medicine to treat post-TBI headaches. Your family member should take all medications exactly as the doctor directs. He or she should talk with the doctor before changing how much medicine he or she takes, or how often.

Other options: Stretching and strengthening exercises may help. Follow the directions of the health care team on these. Exercise, such as swimming in warm water, can help loosen the muscles that cause headaches. Acupuncture, occipital nerve blocks, biofeedback, Botox©, and physical therapy are possible treatments.

How you can help:

  • Ask your service member/veteran to lie down in a dark and quiet place; sleep can relieve a headache.
  • Use heat or ice as directed by the doctor.
  • Encourage your family member to:
    • Avoid bright sunlight, especially going from a dark building into bright sunlight (may need to wear very dark sunglasses).
    • Avoid alcohol.
    • Avoid foods that trigger headaches. These include cold foods, aged hard cheeses, or chocolate.
    • Manage stress. Take breaks during activities, practice deep breathing exercises, exercise, and have some fun.
    • Keep track of headaches in a journal. Note the time of day, the activity, and intensity of the pain.  Share this information with the doctor.
    • Take medications at the same time every day.

If headaches do not improve or worsen, call the doctor. Your service member/veteran does not need to suffer. New treatment options can be tried. Your family member may be referred to a headache specialist, such as a neurologist, if headaches do not improve with standard treatment.