Do you always have a headache with a concussion?

If you’ve ever watched an action movie, you know that concussions are the ultimate tough-guy injury. They get hit over the head with a metal pipe, shake it off for a few seconds, and then get back to punching bad guys in their faces. But as much as Hollywood would have us believe otherwise, concussions can be serious business. In fact, they’re one of the most common injuries sustained by athletes playing contact sports.

So if you’ve suffered from a concussion (whether it was on purpose or not), you might be wondering: do you always have a headache with a concussion? Well don’t worry your pretty little head about it – we’re here to give you all the juicy details.

What is a Concussion?

Before we dive into whether or not headaches are an integral part of every concussion experience (spoiler alert: nope!), let’s talk briefly about what exactly constitutes this kind of brain trauma.

A concussion occurs when there’s some sort of blunt force applied to your noggin’ that causes your brain to bounce around inside your skull like jelly in Tupperware (sorry for making you think too hard about jelly).

This movement leads to changes in brain function that can result in any number of symptoms including confusion, dizziness, loss of balance and coordination…and yes, HEADACHES!

But just because headaches are one possible symptom doesn’t mean everyone gets them after suffering from this type of injury. Sorry folks – life is rarely so straightforward.

The Symptoms Vary

One thing that makes diagnosing concussions tricky is that there’s no checklist of symptoms that apply across the board (that’d make things way too easy!). Instead, each case is unique and may present differently depending on factors such as age, gender and severity of impact.

Common symptoms include feeling groggy or foggy, having trouble with balance or coordination, confusion about where you are or what’s going on around you (which is how we feel most days anyways as writers), and of course – HEADACHES.

The severity of symptoms can also vary from case to case. Some people may experience only mild headaches after a concussion while others may have more severe and persistent pain that can last for weeks or even months.

The Timing is Also Important

Just like each individual symptom varies among patients, the timing of these symptoms can differ as well.

While it’s not uncommon for someone to experience a headache immediately following the impact that caused their concussion (“OW!”), it’s also possible for head pain to develop hours, days, weeks, or even months later!

This delayed onset means that if headaches don’t show up right away after your injury (lucky you), they could still kick in at some point down the road (unlucky…you?).

So why does this happen? Well like so many things when it comes to concussions (or life in general), there’s no one size fits all answer. But here are a few possibilities:

  • Your brain might be slow on the uptake: Sometimes it just takes our brains longer than expected to register trauma.
  • Inflammation might take time to surface: Research has found that inflammation occurs within our skulls after sustaining an injury (thanks immune system!), which could cause ongoing pain.
  • Secondary injuries can result over time: Additional bumps or hits in the same area post-concussion can exacerbate any wounds already sustained.

Okay Okay…Do I Always Have A Headache?

Whew – sorry about all those variables muddling up this question but we’re finally ready to tackle whether everyone gets headaches after a concussion…

And drumroll please….


As much as Hollywood would love us all convulsing with cranial pain after each collision (movie magic dies a bit each day), not every person suffering from a concussion will experience headaches.

In fact, studies have shown that only about 30% to 90% of individuals living with concussions report headaches (yeah…that’s quite the range).

So what other fun symptoms could you potentially be facing? Here are just a few:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Tinnitus (ringing in your ears)
  • Trouble sleeping

So What Are My Next Steps?

Alright friend – we’ve come full circle. You know more than Harry Potter knows about magic and we hope this information has been helpful but let’s say it together: “We’re not doctors!”

If you think you might have experience brain trauma, please make sure to seek medical then shackle yourself for at least six months until your brilliant mind recovers.

Anyways, as millennial writers who want nothing more than our readers’ well-being (winks), here are some steps for recovery post concussion:

  1. Rest rest rest! – Brain injuries require extreme recuperation time.
  2. Manage Other Symptoms as They Appear (thanks Captain Obvious)
  3. Consider Activities Modification: If playing football landed you in this mess, maybe suggest Netflix instead?
  4. Avoid Alcohol & Prescription Pills: Or combine them if needed (minus the last part)

Thanks for sticking with us through all these brainy details (HAH!) and remember folks, while every symptom is unique once everything settles:


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