What Causes Headaches After a Car Accident? Causes & Treatment Options

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Car accidents can result in various injuries and stressors, and one often overlooked aspect is the occurrence of post-car accident headaches. These headaches can be debilitating and impact your quality of life, making it difficult to even complete your daily tasks. Understanding the underlying reasons behind these headaches is crucial for effective treatment and recovery. Let’s explore the common causes of a headache after a car accident, the most effective treatment options available, and any frequently asked questions to help you regain control of your life and find relief in the aftermath of such a traumatic event.

Causes of Headaches After a Car Accident

Causes of Headaches After a Car Accident

After a car accident, several common injuries can result in headaches. Here are a few examples of what can cause headaches after a car accident.


Whiplash is a common injury that occurs when the head and neck are abruptly jerked forward and backward during a car accident. The sudden movement can strain the neck muscles, ligaments, and tendons, resulting in tension headaches. These headaches often feel like a tight band around the head and may be accompanied by other symptoms, including neck pain and stiffness. Learn more about how to tell the difference between whiplash and headaches.

Head Injuries

Direct impact to the head during a car accident can result in head injuries such as concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). These injuries may trigger migraines, which are intense, throbbing headaches usually localized to one side of the head. Migraines can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances.

Muscle Tension

The stress and trauma experienced during a car accident can cause you to unconsciously tense your neck, shoulder, and jaw muscles. This prolonged muscle tension can lead to tension headaches, characterized by a dull ache or pressure around the forehead, along the jawline, or the back of the head.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

After a car accident, some people can develop PTSD, which can manifest as frequent and intense headaches. The stress and anxiety associated with a traumatic experience like a car accident can also exacerbate pre-existing headache conditions or trigger new ones.

Types of Headaches After a Car Accident

Here are five examples of potential types of headaches you might experience after a car accident.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache experienced after a car accident. They occur because of muscle tension and stress, and the pain is often described as constant pressure or tightness around the head.


Migraines are severe headaches that can be triggered by head injuries sustained during the collision. They are often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Cluster Headaches

A car accident could also trigger cluster headaches in some people. These headaches occur in clusters or cycles, with excruciating pain typically focused around one eye or one side of the head.

Cervicogenic Headaches

Cervicogenic headaches are caused by neck injuries, such as whiplash or muscle tension in the neck. The pain usually radiates from the neck to the head and can last for several minutes to several hours.

Rebound Headaches

In some cases, individuals may develop rebound headaches after using excessive pain medications to manage post-accident headaches. Overuse of pain relievers can lead to a cycle of recurring headaches.

What is a Post-Car Accident Headache?

If you develop headaches after a car accident, your car accident doctors may refer to these as post-car accident headaches. This is an umbrella term that refers to the headaches you experience as a symptom of your car accident injuries. It’s important for anyone experiencing post-car accident headaches to seek medical attention to properly diagnose the type of headache they are experiencing. This way, you can receive appropriate treatment and management strategies to promote recovery and alleviate pain.

The duration of post-car accident headaches can vary significantly from person to person and depends on several factors, including the severity of the accident, the type of injuries sustained, and a person’s overall health and medical history. In many cases, post-car accident headaches can resolve within a few days to a couple of weeks with proper rest and appropriate treatment. However, some individuals may experience headaches for an extended period, ranging from weeks to months.

What Doctor to See for Headaches After a Car Accident

If you have been injured in a car accident, the type of doctor you should see for medical attention can depend on the severity and urgency of your post-accident headaches and other symptoms. Here are some general guidelines to help decide when to go to the emergency room (ER) and when to visit a primary care provider:

When to Go to the Emergency Room

  • Severe headache: If you experience a severe headache is extremely intense and accompanied by other concerning symptoms like confusion, slurred speech, severe dizziness, weakness in limbs, or loss of consciousness, it may indicate a more serious head injury or neurological issue requiring immediate medical attention.
  • Suspected Concussion: If there was a direct impact to the head during the car accident, and you have potential symptoms of a concussion, like a persistent headache, confusion, memory problems, or difficulty with balance and coordination, it is important to seek immediate evaluation in the ER.

When to See Your Primary Care Provider

  • Mild to Moderate Headache: If the headache is manageable and not associated with severe symptoms, you can initially seek evaluation from your primary care provider. Your primary care doctor can assess the headache, perform a physical examination, and recommend appropriate treatment for your car accident injuries.
  • Pre-Existing Headaches: If you have a history of headaches before the car accident and the post-accident headaches are similar in intensity and characteristics to your usual headaches, then a visit to your primary care doctor is appropriate for evaluation and management.

When you visit your primary care doctor after a car accident, it is important to describe the details of the car accident, any symptoms you’ve experienced, and any other relevant information to assist in the evaluation and diagnosis. Your primary care provider can provide appropriate pain management, recommend further tests or referrals to car accident injury specialists if necessary, and monitor your progress during the recovery process.

Treatment Options for Post-Accident Headaches

Treatment Options for Post-Accident Headaches

Treatment options for post-car accident headaches can vary depending on the type and severity of the headaches, as well as the individual’s specific injuries and medical history. Here are some common treatment options provided by primary care providers and chiropractic for car accident headache.

Pain Management

Your doctor can talk to you about all your options for pain management, which can include over-the-counter medications for pain and inflammation. You may also consider non-invasive options for pain management, including rest, ice, heat, and lifestyle changes while you recover.

Spinal Manipulation

Car accident chiropractors use gentle spinal manipulation techniques to realign the spine and reduce tension in the neck and back, which can be beneficial in addressing headaches caused by whiplash or other car accident injuries.

Soft Tissue Therapy

Your car accident doctor may also perform soft tissue therapy, such as therapeutic massage, to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.

Posture and Ergonomic Changes

Chiropractors can also provide you with guidance and support on proper posture and ergonomics to reduce further strain on your neck and spine, which can help eliminate the reoccurrence of post-car accident headaches.


Your car accident doctor will work with you from diagnosis through recovery to ensure you have the treatment and tools necessary to rehabilitate from your injuries and experience lasting relief from car accident headaches.

Car Accident Care with Pro-Care Medical Center

Pro-Care Medical Centers specialize in diagnosing and treating car accident headaches and injuries. With a team of experienced healthcare professionals, including both primary care and chiropractic clinic specialists, Pro-Care offers comprehensive care and treatment tailored to meet the unique needs of each patient. Our team at Pro-Care collaborates on providing relief and support for individuals as they recover after a car accident. Whether it’s pain management, spinal manipulation, or other specialized treatments, Pro-Care remains committed to creating personalized treatment plans and restoring the quality of life for those affected by car accidents. Contact us now to discover our comprehensive services, and book your appointment today.

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