Head Injury Symptoms

a Guide to Recovering from Mild Head Injury, Concussion and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury



.. Stopping regular painkillers is not easy but can be a vital step on the road to recovery ..

.. Headache can be disabling and frightening, but it rarely implies a worrying or serious underlying cause ..

Types of Headache


  • There are many different types of headache

  • The commonest types of headache that occur following a mild head injury are migraine and tension-type headache

  • Some people have either migraine or tension-headache, some experience both

  • Headaches can be episodic (i.e. come and go) or chronic (occur on most days, sometimes all day)

  • Most headaches following a mild head injury resolve by 3 months but some people continue to experience headaches beyond this point which is labelled as chronic daily headache


> Find out more about these Types of Headache


Do I Need Any more Investigations?


Generally, no. Your doctor will take a detailed history and perform a focussed examination. If they do not organise a scan, that is because they are confident about the diagnosis. Keeping a headache diary and correlating it with painkiller use can help doctors to decipher what kind of headaches you are having and whether there is medication overuse headache present.


> Read more about the Assessment of Head Injuries


What Treatments Are Available?


There are many treatments available for the management of headache such as migraine and tension-type headache. These are divided into ACUTE (i.e. medication taken for acute relief) and PREVENTATIVE (medication taken to help reduce the severity and frequency of headaches). Your doctor will know what type of treatment is most suitable for you depending on your allergies, medication and other medical conditions.


Acute treatments include drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol. Preventative treatments include a type of antidepressant called amitriptylline or a blood pressure tablet called propranolol.


> Read more about Medication

What Can I Do to Help Myself Get Better?


  • Having a realistic expectation is important

  • Headaches do improve BUT it is not an overnight fix and does take time

  • It is important to feel satisfied about the diagnosis and allow your doctor to reassure you

  • Many people find themselves in a vicious cycle of symptoms:

  • Keep a headache diary- it will allow you to monitor your own improvement

  • You might want to stop regular painkillers, for they can cause or worsen chronic headache

       > Read more about Medication

  • Improve your sleeping habits

        > Read more about Improving Your Sleep

  • Address any stress/low mood/worry- this is well known to exacerbate and heighten any chronic pain, including headache

        > Read more about Low Mood

        > Read more about Anxiety and Worry

  • Don’t skip meals and keep well hydrated

  • Stay positive – things will get better

  • Live life as normally as possible

  • Accept that you will have good days and bad days- this is normal

Further Reading


Migraine Trust - The Migraine Trust is an organisation providing information and promoting research on migraine to reduce its burden on sufferers.


Download the patient information leaflet on Chronic Daily Headache


SIGN 107 - The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) provides national guidelines on various topics. This one focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of headache in adults.

Sign Sign 107 Migraine Trust Cycle

Key Points:

  • Headache following a mild head injury is very common

  • The exact mechanism as to why headache occurs after mild head injury is unclear but the trigger is a blow to the head and the headache usually develops within 7 days

  • Headaches can last for a long time and be frightening, but this reassuringly does not imply a worrying or serious underlying cause

  • Headaches do improve, but it can take time

  • It is important to try and continue life as normal and to remain positive


  • Painkillers are not the only answer

  • Too frequent use of simple painkillers can cause medication overuse headache which will worsen your pre-existing headache