Concussions often result in secondary injuries, including severe headaches. But now a simple procedure may be able to give patients their lives back.
Abby Tyner began having bad headaches after suffering three concussions in high school while playing her favorite sports, softball and basketball.
"I would have to put my head down. The only thing that would fix the horrible headache was sleep and pitch dark," Tyner said.
The migraine and pain medications that doctors gave her didn't help relieve the headaches.
Dr. Ivica Ducic of Georgetown University Hospital specializes in treating headaches. He noticed that a lot of patients like Tyner suffer from extreme headaches after concussions.
He began looking closer at patients' heads and necks and found something that other doctors missed. In many cases, the concussion caused nerves in the neck to become compressed or even tangled with tendons and muscle.
Dr. Ducic developed a procedure to bring the nerves as close to normal condition. Doctors make two small incisions either in the back, front or side of the head to give nerves more space and make sure they're not pinched anymore. It's an outpatient surgery that takes only about an hour.
Tyner said that after a week her headaches disappeared.
"It's just a miracle it went away," she said.
Dr. Ducic said there's no sure way to know how many concussion patients have headaches related to neck injuries. He said he believes the problem is under-reported and under-recognized.