There is no specific treatment for post-concussion syndrome. Instead, your doctor will treat the individual symptoms you’re experiencing. The types of symptoms and their frequency are unique to each person.
Medications commonly used for migraines or tension headaches, including some antidepressants, appear to be effective when these types of headaches are associated with post-concussion syndrome.
- Amitriptyline. This medication has been widely used for post-traumatic injuries, as well as for symptoms commonly associated with post-concussion syndrome, such as irritability, dizziness and depression.
Amitriptyline may be combined with propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL) to treat migraine-type headaches.
- Topiramate. Commonly used to treat migraines, topiramate (Qudexy XR, Topamax, Trokendi XR) may be effective in reducing headaches after head injury. Common side effects of topiramate include weight loss and cognitive problems.
- Gabapentin. Gabapentin (Gralise, Neurontin) is frequently used to treat a variety of types of pain and may be helpful in treating post-traumatic headaches. A common side effect of gabapentin is drowsiness.
Other agents used to treat migraines and tension-type headaches may also be helpful in some individuals.
Keep in mind that the overuse of over-the-counter and prescription pain relievers may contribute to persistent post-concussion headaches.
Memory and thinking problems
No medications are currently recommended specifically for the treatment of cognitive problems after mild traumatic brain injury. Time may be the best therapy for post-concussion syndrome if you have cognitive problems, as most of them go away on their own in the weeks to months following the injury.
Certain forms of cognitive therapy may be helpful, including focused rehabilitation that provides training in how to use a pocket calendar, electronic organizer or other techniques to work around memory deficits and attention skills. Relaxation therapy also may help.
Depression and anxiety
The symptoms of post-concussion syndrome often improve after the affected person learns that there is a cause for his or her symptoms and that they will likely improve with time. Education about the disorder can ease a person’s fears and help provide peace of mind.
If you’re experiencing new or increasing depression or anxiety after a concussion, some treatment options include:
- Psychotherapy. It may be helpful to discuss your concerns with a psychologist or psychiatrist who has experience in working with people with brain injury.
- Medication. To combat anxiety or depression, antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed.
The only known way to prevent post-concussion syndrome is to avoid the head injury in the first place.
Avoiding head injuries
Although you can’t prepare for every potential situation, here are some tips for avoiding common causes of head injuries:
- Fasten your seat belt whenever you’re traveling in a car, and be sure children are in age-appropriate safety seats. Children under 13 are safest riding in the back seat, especially if your car has air bags.
- Use helmets whenever you or your children are bicycling, roller-skating, in-line skating, ice-skating, skiing, snowboarding, playing football, batting or running the bases in softball or baseball, skateboarding, or horseback riding. Wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle.
- Take steps around the house to prevent falls, such as removing small area rugs, improving lighting and installing handrails.