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Migraines as a Sign of Head Injury & Migraine Awareness Week

View profile for Simon Pimlott
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Regular sufferers will attest to the fact that migraines aren’t just headaches, symptoms can range from sensory disturbances and extreme nausea, and can result from a prior head injury

1st September 2019 marks migraine awareness week, an initiative intended to educate and inform more people on the potentially life-changing impact of migraines, and how colleagues, friends, and family can support those who experience them.

What is a migraine?

A migraine is characterised by a moderate or severe headache, often with throbbing on one side of the head.  Unlike normal headaches, however, migraine sufferers commonly experience nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to sound and light.  According to the Migraine Trust , there are several types of migraine, including, but not limited to:

  • Migraine without aura
  • Migraine with aura
  • Chronic migraine
  • Menstrual migraine
  • Hemiplegic migraine
  • Migraine with brainstem aura
  • Migraine with vertigo
  • Abdominal migraine
  • Cyclical vomiting migraine

Migraine sufferers sometimes experience auras either in the form of visual disturbances (seeing spots, tunnel vision, temporary blindness, or flashing lights) or other sensory changes such as numbness or tingling, dizziness, vertigo (a sensation of losing balance), speech or hearing impairment, or weakness on one side of the body.  While these symptoms will pass with time, the experience can be quite distressing for the individual, placing considerable limitations on their daily lives.

Migraine as a sign of head injury

It is common for individuals who have experienced a head injury to continue as normal, either ignoring their signs in the hope they will be fine, or where there is a delayed onset of symptoms.  A rugby player who suffers a nasty tackle, or a mountain biker who falls and bangs their head, may be tempted to avoid seeking medical attention, but if migraine strikes in the hours or days following the impact, this should be sought immediately.  A migraine may be a benign and temporary response to a minor head injury, which given time will abate, but it can also be a warning of something altogether more worrisome.

Post-traumatic headaches (PTH) are a common symptom of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), characterised by “a headache developing within seven days of the injury or after regaining consciousness.”  Often these PTHs have the appearance of migraines or tension headaches and will resolve within three months. However, in cases which continue, the patient may be diagnosed with ‘persistent PTH’.  Beyond the more obvious symptoms of PTH, sufferers may also experience “dizziness, insomnia, poor concentration, memory problems, sensitivity to noise or bright lights, fatigue as well as mood and personality changes like depression and nervousness”.

Anyone who is experiencing migraines, especially those who have no past history and where a recent head injury has occurred (even if it was assessed medically at the time), should seek urgent medical guidance.  In the first instance, it will be necessary to rule out a more serious cause, such as possible bleeding in or around the brain.  Beyond this, a physician specialising in such injuries will be able to recommend possible medications, therapies, and management approaches to alleviate the impact of your migraines.  You may also need to take some time off from work in order to allow your body to fully recover from the head injury, and also allow your headache or migraine symptoms to settle or fully resolve.

Migraine Awareness Week 2019

Migraine Awareness Week (MAW) is an annual campaign run by the Migraine Trust to create awareness of migraines, educate the public, and reduce the stigma associated.  This year, the event will run from Sunday 1st September 2019 to Saturday 7th September 2019, and those wishing to keep up to date with what will be happening can follow the Trust’s Facebook and Twitter pages, and use the social media hashtags #letsbeatmigraine and #migraineawarenessweek. 

In addition to raising funds to assist sufferers across the UK, the charity is trying to encourage employers and workers to better understand the signs, symptoms, and how best to support employees with migraines.  It may be that migraines are triggered by particular factors at work (such as loud noise, bright lights, or lack of breaks), which can easily be resolved.  And in the case of workers who have migraines following a head injury, employers may need to allow sufficient time to make a recovery before returning to work.  It may also be necessary to alter their role tasks and working environment to assist them in coping once they do return to the workplace.

Final words

The sudden onset of migraines may be a sign of an underlying head injury, and as such, you should seek immediate medical attention.  A full medical evaluation following a head injury is important to ensure you receive the physical and psychological attention you need.  It may also be possible to bring a claim for compensation following a head injury if the events that led to the impact/accident were the result of negligence by another party.  Compensation can go a long way to assist financially, while you receive the medical attention you need and time required to make the best recovery possible.

If you wish to talk about any of the points raised in this article, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at enquiries@ibbclaims.co.uk or fill in our contact form.  Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence.

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