Concussions and Medication Overuse Chronic Headaches

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April 4, 2014

Sadly, it seems that not a week goes by without a news report about the devastating long term effects from concussions as well as the risks associated with pain medication overuse. New research, presented at the Child Neurology Society 2013 Annual Meeting indicates that overusing pain medication for concussions can lead to a chronic headache condition. This suggests yet one more reason to focus on finding drug free migraine and headache therapies to prevent exchanging one debilitating ailment for another.

The researchers evaluated data from a three-year period of treating young adult and adolescent concussion patients, who were experiencing symptoms several months beyond the concussion itself. They observed that among 104 subjects, 77 had chronic headaches that lasted between 3 and 12 months.

In 54 of these patients, medication overuse was suspected to be the cause. One of the presenters told Medical News Today “a lot of these adolescents and young adults had been instructed to take analgesics during their acute concussion management, but the medicines were never decreased or stopped as the headaches became chronic.”

The subjects were asked to cut back or stop taking the analgesics. Within two months, 37 of the 54 patients who were overusing medication saw an improvement or abatement in their headache condition. The article did not indicate whether the young subjects received any other drug free migraine or headache therapies after cutting back on medication. According to the American Headache Society post-traumatic headaches or migraines can last as long as three months.

The researcher concluded, “when daily headaches following concussion (post-traumatic headaches) continue for several weeks, clinicians should consider stopping analgesics or restricting their use to no more than 2 days weekly as medication-overuse headache can develop.”

Another physician interviewed for the article offered an alternate explanation for the post-concussion headache improvement. She suggested that since concussions heal with time, it is possible that the headaches went away thanks to time, rather that any cutback on analgesics.

Regardless of the explanation for the headache improvement, it is clear how important drug free migraine therapies and treatments can be. Whether replacing medication with alternatives like trigger avoidance and stress management techniques, or undergoing a migraine procedure, preventing medication overuse is beneficial to long-term health.


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