Posttraumatic headache

Marc E Lenaerts, James R. Couch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Posttraumatic headache (PTH) is divided into acute and chronic groups whose management and prognosis are clearly different. Although IHS criteria stipulate that PTH should have an onset within 2 weeks of the trauma, it has been observed that a headache linked to the trauma can start later. PTH can be clinically divided into the following groups: migraine-like headache, tension-type-like headache, cluster-like headache, cervicogenic-like headache, and others. Based on these clinical distinctions, therapy can be administered accordingly. However, the distinction is relative and numerous clinical features may be common to all. There seems to be a weak inverse relationship between the severity of the head trauma and the occurrence of a PTH, especially chronic. A holistic approach is not only useful but it is necessary for a therapeutic success. Early and aggressive treatment and empathy are essential to the patient's improvement. Prompt recognition and treatment of laceration, peripheral nociceptive sources such as cervical joint displacement, vascular factors, may diminish chronicity. Neuromodulation of pain with prophylactic agents is recommended early. Although it is less necessary for the acute PTH, it will be crucial for the chronic form and should be initiated no later than 2 months cut-off time between acute and chronic PTH. Recognition and treatment of psychiatric factors such as depression and anxiety will lessen the risk of chronicity. Analgesic rebound-withdrawal headache commonly is seen in chronic PTH. This must be corrected rapidly because it can protract the headache and render other inappropriate therapeutic measures inefficient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)507-517
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Treatment Options in Neurology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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