Migraine and Concussion
By Nancy Bonk—January 12, 2012

Concussion is a frequently discussed topic in the news today. So what exactly is a concussion how can it impact Migraine disease?

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs when the brain is quickly jarred inside the skull, interrupting its ability to function properly. It is the most common type of traumatic brain injury and may be caused by many things including a penetrating blow to the head, a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or a sports injury. There is more to a concussion than getting a “ding” to the head, just as there is more to Migraine than being a bad headache.

Symptoms of a concussion may begin immediately after the injury or in other cases, may not occur until hours or days later. Dizziness, nausea, head pain, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, trouble sleeping, and balance issues may all be signs of a concussion. After such an injury, the brain requires total rest to fully recover and heal. During this recovery process, the Centers for Disease Control states that it is vital not to overstimulate the brain with excessive television, video games, or physical activity. This includes household activities or tasks which require significant amounts of concentration. Migraine specialist Dr. David Dodick, President of the American Headache Society and Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, recommends avoiding all stimulation — ruling out television, reading, and cognitive activities until symptoms subside. He also states that returning to work or school too soon could be detrimental for some, therefore it is important to monitor your symptoms closely.

Most people recover from a concussion within a few days, but for others symptoms may persist over time. If you are experiencing symptoms of a concussion after a head injury, it is important to meet with a physician to ensure your symptoms are not caused by other internal injuries.

I am a Migraineur who suffered a concussion 15 years ago. In my case, the concussion increased the severity, frequency, and duration of my Migraine attacks. Furthermore, my attacks became more difficult to treat, and when they become cyclic, it takes much longer for them to dissipate.

Headache is a major complaint after concussion, so where does Migraine disease fit in? Based on my personal experience and the experience of many other Migraineurs I’ve spoken to, there is no doubt concussion has had a significant impact on our Migraines. There is also evidence suggesting athletes and military personnel are at increased risk of migraine after suffering head injuries. However, scientific research into the relationship between concussion and Migraine is still limited.

Have you experienced a head or neck injury? Did you notice a change in the severity or frequency of your migraine attacks?

References 1Center For Disease Control. “Concussion. What are the Signs and Symptoms?” http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/signs_symptoms.html December 15, 2011. 2 Center For Disease Control. “Facts about Concussion and Brain Injury.”http://www.cdc.gov/concussio /pdf/Fact_Sheet_ConcussTBI-a.pdf December 16, 2011. 3 Personal phone interview with Dr. David Dodick, President of the American Headache Society and Professor of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. November 7, 2011 4 Finkel, Alan.MD. “Military Post-Traumatic Headache: A Hidden Injury of War.” Information for Patients. ACHE —The Fred Sheftell, MD Education Center. December 2011. http://www.achenet.org/resources/military_posttraumatic_headache_a_hidden_injury_of_war/- 5 Evans, Randolph. MD. “Mild Closed Head Injury and Headache.” Information for Patients. ACHE —The Fred Sheftell, MD Education Center. December 2011. http://www.achenet.org/resources/mild_closed_head_injury_and_headache/

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About Nancy Bonk

Nancy Harris Bonk is a patient advocate and educator who has been helping patients empower themselves by taking an active role in their health care since 2003.

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