Migraine and Concussion

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/

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (40)
  • pmcsac
    9 months ago

    I started suffering from chronic migraines 10 months after I suffered a concussion. I also have degenerative discs that were rotated out of position from the fall. It is now one year and six months later and the fog has never lifted and I am being told that I am not post-concussive. I’m being told that the migraines are unrelated to my fall. Up to this point, I have never had a migraine once, let alone everyday of my life for the past 8 months. Migraines do not run in my family, so genetics does not play a part either. I am currently on Nortriptylene and it has done nothing. I feel like someone is pulling my eyes out and they are stretched just about as far as they can be. The pain is in the back of my head and is not all that severe. Thoughts?

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    9 months ago

    Hi pmcsac,

    I’m so sorry to hear you are having a rough time right now – it’s so frustrating.

    You mentioned your neck. I wonder if cervicogenic headache may be playing a role here? You can read more about this type of headache disorder here; https://migraine.com/blog/cervicogenic-headache/.

    It may be time to see a true expert who treats headache disorders. These doctors are board certified in headache medicine, which is different than being certified in neurology. Neurologists may be fine doctors, but have a hard time being experts in one area because they treat so many conditions such a stroke, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s and others. When you get a chance take a look at these articles that detail how these doctors are different and how to find one; http://migraine.com/blog/how-are-migraine-specialists-different/ and
    https://migraine.com/blog/really-find-headache-specialist/.
    I hope that helps!
    Nancy

  • 1 year ago

    This article got me thinking. While I can remember migraine symptoms as far back as childhood, I fell off a horse in 2014 and broke my L1-L4 transverse process. I recovered fully but have had more back pain in my upper back since then. I went back to riding 9 months later, no pain but my horse is very lazy and constantly trips. I sort of have mild continuous whiplash. I discontinued riding 2 months ago mostly bc my migraines have become such a problem. Riding is vigorous exercise and that seems to trigger more symptoms. But I wonder if there is more to it. The first neurologist I saw brushed the accident off, he saw scar tissue on my MRI so that was the cause. But now that I think about it, I went on a cruise in 2013, I wasn’t seasick and no MDdS. I went on a catamaran in 2015 and developed MDdS. The accident was in 2014….

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Snoopy10,

    Good luck with the doctor and please let me know how it goes!

    Nancy

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    1 year ago

    Hi Snoopy10,

    My doctors brushed off my concussion as well. I’m fairly certain if it happened now, I would have healed much differently.

    If you don’t feel your getting cooperation with the doctor, I would encourage you to seek out a second opinion!

    Nancy

  • 1 year ago

    Thank you. I’m getting ready for my appointment with a new neurologist by writing everything down including the accidents.

  • Dana
    1 year ago

    I was hit in the face with a baseball bat one summer evening when I was 12. I remember being hit and I remember being home. I was told one of the neighborhood kids ran and got my dad and he carried me home. I had a few teeth knocked out and was wearing braces at the time, which had ripped my lips to shreds. My Aunt happened to work for my orthodontist, so they had my parents bring me into his office where he started the long process of fixing my mouth. He told my parents, ” her nose is broken too”, but I never saw a medical doctor. My migraines started 4 years later. It’s been 27 years since I got hit with that bat and 23 since the migraines started and they have gotten progressively worse over the years. I also have disc damage throughout my spine and degenerative disc disease. Aside from the obvious head injury, I’ve been told I probably also suffered a wicked case of whiplash, which probably caused the disc issues that continue to worsen. So yeah….Migraines and Concussions.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks for reading Dana. I’m sorry I didn’t see your comment until today. Migraine and Concussions – a club we don’t want to be part of!!

    Nancy

  • TENA
    2 years ago

    I am at home now day 5 of a concussion. I have a question that I hope someone just might have an answer to…I was planning to go back to work tomorrow. I was in a car accident saturday and have a concussion. I have been frustrated today because I am still struggling with dizziness and nausea whenever I move.. something as simple as walking to the bathroom can become quite interesting. I thought, maybe wrongly so, that as the days pass this would get better not worse! Today has been a pretty bad day as I have a migraine plus this dizziness and nausea. I don’t get dizzy with migraines but I do get nauseated but this nausea is a bit intense and it only happens if I look up tilt my neck back or go side to side. I don’t know.. am i making a mountain out of a molehill here??Thanks for any information.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi TENA,
    First, I want to say how very sorry I am to hear you were in an accident and that you suffered a concussion. How very scary. Symptoms outside of the “norm” is absolutely not making a mountain out of a molehill. Can you call and discuss this worsening symptom with your doctor tomorrow? Given the lack of improvement these past few days you may also want to discuss with your doctor the best course of treatment & if truly best to return to work so quickly. Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with medical advice, but hopefully you can get some answers from your doctor. Wishing you all the best and that your recovery process begins to improve. Best, Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • dsoliz
    3 years ago

    I was assaulted in 1999 in Grand Prairie Texas and suffered a blow to the face but I couldn’t prove this person hit me because I didn’t see coming and I have no memory of the entire incident or evening, I lost 16 hours. I just remember vaguely 2 policemen asking me if I needed an ambulance and me telling them to get the f*** out of my house, they but I think I was laying on my couch because I see myself looking up from somewhere in my living room like an out of body experience. Weird. I couldn’t st up without puking, head spinning, had to hold on to walls to walk, i was alone, ended up in ER somehow, severe concussion, migraines been getting worse ever since……….

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi there dsoliz,
    It is so heartbreaking to read what you went through and now continue to endure now with your migraines getting worse. I am so sorry that you were involved in such a terrible assault. I love seeing however that you have reached out and given unfortunately another voice to these tragic situations….as I am sure you can read & see by all the comments left in regards to this topic and in other articles we have related to this as well, is that you are not alone! Please know that you have a community behind you and supporting you and understand what you are going through. I only hope that this can give you a “bit” of piece of mind and also hope for better days ahead! Have you by chance been seen or considered seeing a migraine/headache specialist? Here is some information on how these doctors are different and making the decision to see one;
    https://migraine.com/blog/making-decision-see-headache-specialist/
    https://migraine.com/blog/seeing-a-board-certified-headache-specialist/

    Additionally, here is another article which discusses migraine and traumatic brain injury: https://migraine.com/migraine-causes/neck-or-head-injury/.

    Thanks again for reaching out and especially for being part of our community! We are always here for you.
    Warmly,
    Joanna (Migraine.com Team)

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    3 years ago

    Thank you for your comment JOJ.

    I’m sorry you’ve had a difficult time as well. One thing we do know is TBI can make our attacks more difficult to treat and last longer.

    Happy New Year!

  • Crystalrz4
    3 years ago

    My migraines began in 1956. My severe concussion was in 1965. The concussion definitely made the migraines worse, but then again so did the viral meningitis in 1980 that nearly killed me
    .

  • Jojiieme
    3 years ago

    Almost a year since the last comment!
    Hi! I’m new here, and it’s nice to meet people who really really get the different facets of what we deal with, so often.
    I “earned” my acquired brain injury almost 30years ago in a car accident. My skull fractured in three places, my right eye turned in against my nose, I bled from both ears, and my face twisted into a bilateral Bell’s palsy, paralysed from the eyebrows up and the eyes down. But because I was apparently speaking all the way through the rescue, and in the ER, they said I wasn’t officially concussed…despite the CAT scans and 6 neuros looking after me, we never discussed brain damage at all.
    My neck was swollen so badly, and my brain was apparently quite swollen. So I was unable to have medication for pain (they were worried about seizures). Injections for nausea (maxilon), and much later, some prednisolone for the swelling, and a course of vit B1.
    But here’s the thing: I was a migraineur before, since about age 9 or 10. Usually the Alice in Wonderland thing, or feeling like I was drifting out of my body while walking to school, or the mid-afternoon sudden exhaustion thing.
    Afterwards, there wasn’t much difference. My brain was scrambled – some fairly high-level bruising to recover from. And I couldn’t work for a while. But my neighbour was learning reflexology, and I lent her my hands and feet. I learnt to swim. I tried learning some new languages (Greek, Mandarin, Japanese), languages with different sounds and scripts. I got married and moved to the tropics. And with the heat, came the massive changes in my migraine patterns.
    It was manageable until a 6-week attack. Yep, six weeks.
    So sorry this has gone on so long! I think what I’ve been trying to say is: just as every migraineur is different, the TBI/ABI is different. Our brains are intricate and amazing, and what makes them so wondrous is all the clever ways they find to keep working despite the bumps and hiccups and snafus we put in the way.
    Find ways to keep your brain sparking! Do things that feel novel, and a bit scary, and that use all your senses! It keeps the neurotransmitters bubbling and new neural pathways forging all through your grey and white matter. And some of that activity eventually helps with the way we handle pain.

  • Jo
    4 years ago

    My migraines started after a football was accidentally kicked at my head when I was a teenager, i’m now 35. I remember after the incident sitting in assembly and my face went numb, then my fingers. I’d been holding onto a letter that had been handed out but now I couldn’t keep hold of it.
    I can’t remember telling my parents if I’d had the incident or whether school might have informed them, to be honest everything from that day onwards to today is foggy.
    I’ve never had a scan although I’ve seen 3 different doctors who have tried no end of drugs on me. I’ve just been introduced to a new lady Dr at my practise so I think it may be a good idea to ask her to get the ball rolling.
    I get migraine with aura, I take sumatriptan and also paracetamol.
    Today is a migraine hangover after having an attack early this morning.

  • Constance Standley
    5 years ago

    FOR YOU WHO ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY SLEEPING THERE ARE HERBS TO HELP YOU SLEEP WHICH ARE AMAZING!

    I purchase all of my herbs @ Swansonvitamins.com but you can probably find them @ a health food store.

    Chamomile 350 mg (NO SIDE EFFECTS)
    Triple Strength Melatonin 10 mg (do not take if you are pregnant or nursing, have an autoimmune condition or depressive disorder or under 16 years of age.)
    Suntheanine L-Theanine 100 mg (NO SIDE EFFECTS)

    Your doctor probably won’t know about any of these, but ask anyway.

  • Constance Standley
    5 years ago

    I’ve had 3 head injuries now, 1 fractured and 2 closed. The first was the open @ age 17 from a fall from my horse. I tell folks “they’re like potato chips, you can’t have just 1!” They left me with seizures and the second left me living with migraine-strength headaches @ impact in 1988 which have never left to this day. I live with them 24/7. Yuppers, thought I was going to lose my mind there for a while. But the good Lord has brought me through. I now do bio-feedback during the day and also teach it. I did have to have a fusion in the cervical area. Also took a nasty fall down a flight of 13 stairs too one year messing up my back. I now sleep right on the floor. I have found that the nights that are really bad, an ice pack is best for me right at the base of my neck. This does help. Fioricet has helped as well to bring it down to an 8 on the scale. Vistaril is good for nausea. I take it for my seizure meds and it has also worked great for the headaches! I know you’re going to think me crazy, but an inversion table works out great as well. I have one and I hang upside down on it even when I feel like barfing. When I get off of it I feel SO much better! Guess I’ve just gotten used to all of this. 🙂

  • Jo Petersen
    5 years ago

    I am the only one in my family who has migraines. It took years, but we finally found a chiropractor to x ray my neck for adjustments, and there before us was the damage I had suspected for years from a childhood accident from a fall to my head that would have had my whole body force on my head and neck. No other specialist would look at the neck even after asking if I had any childhood accident. After ten years of a daily migraine, I am hopeful we are on course to reduce my pain so I can live a better life. I’m happy to hear medicine is catching up to this in the migraine arena.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    5 years ago

    Hi Yuze,

    Thanks so much for reading. You’ve made an interesting point about concussion recovery. To be truthful if I had known how important resting my concussed brain would gave been for a few days afterwards, I would gladly have done so if it would have helped relieve the chronic pain and other symptoms I face on a daily basis.

    We’ve come a long way on traumatic brain injury, but still have more work to do.

    Nancy

  • pamkerstner
    6 years ago

    I have had migraines for years. About 2 years ago I feel down our basement stairs. A few days to a week later I was told I had Post Traumatic Brain injury. It has taken all this time to get back to my old self but since than when the comb webs went away from the fall, the migraines have gotten much more frequent and intense and most often I wake in the morning and I have one. It is easy the count the days when I do not have a migraine compared to when I do. I had been on several preventive meds but nothing lasted or worked well, and a few had terrible side affects. I see a specialist this month the nuerologist really just told me about the head injury and gave out a med which was awful because of the side affects. I am so tired of feeling pain most of the time I JUST WANT TO BE NORMAL AGAIN 🙁

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    6 years ago

    Hi pamkerstner,

    I hope it will be of some comfort for you to know I understand exactly what you are going thorough.

    As we continue to learn more about traumatic brain injury (TBI) we’ve come to the realization that there is no such thing as a “mild” concussion. Any insult to the brain is considered traumatic and needs proper healing time.

    It may be beneficial to see a doctor who specializes in concussion treatment and management. Or at least a true migraine specialist. Neurologists may be fine doctors but may have a difficult time being experts in one area because they treat so many different conditions like MS, stroke, epilepsy and others. Migraine specialists are just that, experts who treat one condition all day, every day – migraine and headache disorders and are board certified in headache medicine. Let me give you some information on how migraine specialists are different; http://migraine.com/blog/how-are-migraine-specialists-different/ and when you want to look for one you can look at this link; https://migraine.com/blog/looking-for-a-migraine-specialist/.

    Seeing as we have two major league sports teams in our area, we have a clinic at one of the university’s that is devoted to treating athletes with concussion but does treat non-athletes as well. You may want to check in your area to see if there is anything available like that.

    Good luck and keep me posted on how you are doing,OK?
    Nancy

  • Donna Lenning
    7 years ago

    As someome who suffers from Chronic migraines I also wonder if my TBI is related. I was diagnosed with Epilesy and Encephalopathy after suffering seizures 10 years after my head injury. I was hit from behind from a falling window which caused a brain bruise and brain damage to my temporal and frontal lobes. I had a hard time keeping jobs because I kept making mistakes and doing things backwards or out of order. My nuerologist finally put me on disability and told me my brain wasn’t wired right anymore. It’s been difficult because I used to be so productive. I continue to have seizures and complicated migraines several times a month. When I have these episodes I have partial paralysis on one side, my face droops and I can’t open my eye. Along with a huge headache these episodes can last days or hours. As a mother who has young boys I am scared they will encur concussions and develop the same kind of injuryI have while playing football or other dangerous sports. More people need to know about what dangers we are exposing our kids to.

    myface droops, I can’t open my eye

  • Constance Standley
    5 years ago

    Donna, What state are you living in? Is there a support group there for you? When I lived in FL I founded a TBI group. I no longer live there, I live in SD, but check out your area, there just may be a support group around for you. If not, START ONE! You just may be shocked how many folks are in your same shoes! I certainly was. I had doctors come into our group to lecture etc. We grew SO fast! We not only had TBI survivors, but the care-givers as well. It eventually spread into 2 groups. One for the caregivers and one for the survivors. Then we would all meet up together every 6 months for a bash!

  • Donna Lenning
    7 years ago

    I meant grandmother..

  • Tammy Elder Rome
    7 years ago

    I have had 2 concussions. Both times the migraines got worse. They became chronic after the second concussion. Because they got so much worse, I now have family members who blame the migraines on the concussions…as if that somehow makes them more tolerable.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    Migraines probably came first, since it is a genetic neurological disease. The multiple concussions you’ve sustained have probably helped trigger more Migraines….if we could only blame Migraine disease on concussions it would be much easier!

  • Jamie Sohn
    7 years ago

    After each concussion came more Migraine preventives, abortives, and trips to my Migraine specialist.

    I could write a book. Important topic… not just for Migraineurs…

    Took a long time to recover from the last one- and I have no memory of the event that caused it.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    You!!- that bubble is still on order! Maybe just for your head…..what do you think?

  • Brenna Gray
    7 years ago

    For me, I had the concussion first, which led to the migraines… and then more concussions, and worsening migraines…

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    Hi Brenna, sorry to hear about your multiple concussions. Watch that head of yours! Have you been to a Migraine specialist yet?

  • Frances Sherwood Macaraig
    7 years ago

    Hmmm I had a concussion when I was small and told all my drs. about it thinking it may have something to do with all my headaches, They just dismissed me. I was about 8 and started getting headaches at @ 9. I am 52 now and have them 3 to 4 times a week.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    From most of the information, Migraine comes first, as it is a genetic neurological disease.Most Migraineurs have family members somewhere in our family who experienced some type of “sick” headache, or “sinus” headache when in reality it was Migraine. Migraine disease can certainly impact recovery from a concussion.

  • Carolyn Cappitelli
    7 years ago

    You just told my story. This is exactly what happened to me and the migraines just keep getting worse and more treatment resistant. I also lost my teeth and dislocated my jaw in the wreck, which caused TMJ, a big trigger.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    Oh, I am so sorry. In my case, with my sensitive brain, TBI and Migraines, eliminating coffee seems to help. It doesn’t seem possible, and I really discounted it for a long time. But……for me, it was worth a try! Just an FYI

  • Cathy Frost
    7 years ago

    I was very happy to see this. I had a concussion over a year ago. It was not until the next day did I start to feel the results of it; dizziness, nausea, difficulty concentrating and balance. I had never had a concussion before like that (in fact, based on experience, I am wondering if I ever had one before.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    Definitely- concussions are no fun. Thanks for reading.

  • Cathy Frost
    7 years ago

    Sorry, responding via phone is a pain! Anyway I could not believe how this affecet me and my migraines. It did aggravate them for a short amount of time…they went from every couple of days to everyday….it was miserable!

  • Gina Marie
    7 years ago

    I was in a head on collision 14 years ago that for me resulted in a concussion & fractured pelvic bone that had me in a wheelchair/walker for a few months. I have been getting migraines since I was a child and couldn’t even begin to communicate or describe the pain that I was feeling. I remember my first ER visit when they diagnosed it as a migraine@ 11 years old.
    I hated going to school, PE was a pain -I ALWAYS had headaches during class and would often go home early or miss school because I felt so sick to my stomach from the intolerable, throbbing head pain.
    It is an invisible pain that nobody knows about unless they experience so, with that comes a very complex guilt. I would always be wondering if anyone believed me or just thought I wanted attention. So it would make me strive to be “tougher”-and therefore suffer longer before I couldn’t take it anymore, which unfortunately is still sometimes the case today because there is very little recognition given to head pain.
    Back on subject -the concussion worsened the migraine attacks. I could expect unbearable head pain that would make my head feel as though it was going to burst almost on a daily basis.
    Docs just kept pumping me full of meds.
    I got married and in all its unhealthy glory-my hubby labeled me a pill popper, making things much better as you can probably imagine. Counseling wasn’t much help. He then went on to physical abuse-and should be locked up for the times that he used his bare hands to cause a concussion, but he got lucky because I was dumb-probably from all of those blows to the head.
    But I survived, we are divorced-he actually left the kids & I for a coworker of his-then took the children and everything I ever owned from me-now& I’m dealing with the pain since nothing I have tried to date has ever worked.
    I am physically & emotionally in a lot of pain -it’s no life….and those both can take a toll when you suffer migraines. All I can do is pray.
    I have finally decided that I have no choice but to aknowledge my disability- after being fired for the first time in my life right before my birthday & Xmas (from a job/career that I loved) I believe due to calling in sick so often from migraines-it became clear to me, I have an illness that causes disability.
    I pray that there is a new treatment on its way that will make life liveable again.
    Its been a long time.

  • Yuze
    5 years ago

    I had several concussions as a child (very poor coordination, poor at sports), had my first migraine at age 17. Strong family history of migraines – both mother and father as well as sisters and some of their offspring) so that’s where the migraines come from.

    What interested me in this thread was the recovery process from both migraine and concussion. My expedience is that the brain just has to be left in as close to possible ‘off mode’ after the event -either migraine or concussion – to allow return to ‘normal’ (do migrainers ever return to normal?). For migraine, at least one full day after the event of dong absolutely nothing wold be perfect. How many of us have that option though?

  • Poll