Ask the Expert: Constant Headache After Car Accident

Q: My husband was in a car accident five years ago and suffered a brain injury and many broken bones. He now suffers with constant chronic headaches which are gradually worsening over time. The doctors said all his injuries have healed and CT and MRI scans showed “nothing significant to cause headache.” All kinds of therapies and pain medications have been tried, which either did nothing or made his condition worse. The doctors don’t know why he has a terrible headache all the time.

It seems to me that there should be some kind of testing procedures available that would locate the cause of the headache. And why don’t the pain medications ease his pain?

A: Morning headaches can be from different origins. Migraine attacks typically start in the morning or wake a person up from sleep. Hypnic headaches also can wake a patient, usually between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. These last for about one hour and typically occur in people aged 65 and older. Hypertension that is not well controlled may cause morning headaches as well. Salt does not trigger headaches, but too much salt in the diet may be responsible for high blood pressure. You should see your healthcare provider to monitor your blood pressure, especially in morning hours. The pituitary gland, if enlarged due to a tumor, may also cause headache and other symptoms.

George Urban, M.D.
Diamond Headache Clinic, Chicago, IL

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