Best Treatments for Headaches from Auto Accidents

Have you walked away from a car accident feeling “fine,” but then struggled for days, weeks, or even months after with debilitating headaches?

You’re not alone.

In fact, headaches are one of the most common symptoms people suffer from after a motor vehicle accident. Luckily, there’s more you can do for your post-accident headache than take handfuls of painkillers or rub in smelly skin creams. Let’s talk about what causes these headaches, what treatments exist, and how the practitioners at Accelerate Health can help you get feeling better…faster.

What Causes Headaches After a Car Accident?

At the base of your skull are four muscles called the suboccipitals. These muscles are primarily in charge of your posture and moving your head and are especially prone to injury in a car accident.

The violent forward and backward motion that happens during a collision puts a great deal of strain on these muscles as you struggle to keep your head upright. The muscles become so tight, in fact, that they’ll form what we call trigger points—little knots or bumps in the muscle fibers that cause spasms.

Suboccipital Muscles and Headaches

In addition, the suboccipital nerve passes through the suboccipital muscles, and will get irritated when the suboccipitals go into spasm. This creates pain that starts on the back of your head and moves forward in a band to right behind your eyes. Sound familiar? It’s called a tension headache. The pain is deep, intense, and often hard to describe.

Up to 90% of people who experience whiplash develop tension headaches, and 30-50% of them continue to suffer from these headaches for more than six months. You deserve to live a pain-free life! If you’re suffering from tension headaches caused by an auto accident 6 days or 6 months ago, Accelerate Health can help.

What can treat tension headaches?

There are several treatments that can be used to treat headaches, including:

  • Spinal manipulation:

    A practitioner performs a controlled thrust to your spine to restore joint function and help reduce inflammation and pain.

  • Soft tissue manipulation:

    A practitioner manipulates your muscles, skin, tissues, etc with their hands or an instrument to improve circulation, reduce swelling or pain, and release tension.

  • Class IV laser:

    Using a special light-therapy device, a practitioner delivers a special kind of light to your problem areas that help to reduce muscle spasms, decrease pain, and promote healing. It is non-surgical, non-invasive, and painless.

  • Cupping:

    A trained practitioner uses special silicone cups to create a vacuum over the injured area with special silicone cups. The suction promotes blood flow to help with pain and inflammation.

  • Graston:

    A trained practitioner in the Graston Technique manipulates the muscle and connective tissue with specialized tools to increase blood flow, reduce scar tissue, and increase mobility.

  • Therapeutic exercise:

    A practitioner will teach you quick and easy exercises to do at home to help reduce the tension in the muscles at the base of your skull and alleviate pain.

  • Functional dry needling:

    A practitioner inserts thin, monofilament needles into trigger points around the injury to reduce pain and increase range of motion.

It’s important to remember that there is often no one special silver bullet to alleviate your pain. That’s why you should always work with a practitioner who is trained in many different modalities and can combine them to help you achieve optimal health.

How Accelerate Health Can Help

While your practitioner here at Accelerate Health here in Denver will use a variety of techniques in your custom-built treatment plan, one of our most effective therapies is dry needling. Let’s take a deeper look at what it is.

Trigger Points

Remember those trigger points (knots) hanging out in your suboccipital muscles, sending pain across the nerves in your head? Dry needling targets those trigger points, helping to heal them and stop the cycle of spasms and pain.

Your provider at Accelerate Health will identify the location of trigger points and insert a thin, monofilament needle into the trigger point and send a small current into the muscle. This current will cause the muscle to contract and reset back to its original healthy state. (Kind of like turning your computer off and then on again). Once the muscle is reset, there will be less irritation hitting the nerve, reducing your headaches.

Dry Needling

If it sounds scary, don’t worry. Our Denver auto-accident chiropractors are fully trained and certified in dry needling. In fact, it’s safe, minimally uncomfortable, and proven to be extremely effective.

Please note that dry needling is different than acupuncture. While the tools are similar, dry needling is based on Western medicine and is evidence-based, while acupuncture is based on traditional Eastern medicine.


Once you begin treatment at one of our Denver facilities, it will be common for your headaches to go away before your neck pain does. Don’t worry–all treatment is a process. Suboccipitals respond very well to treatment, helping headaches to resolve quickly. What a relief!

If you’ve been in an auto accident and are struggling with tension headaches, you don’t have to keep suffering! Using functional dry needling and a combination of therapies to best suit your symptoms, our auto accident chiropractors will help you achieve results as quickly as possible. Contact our office today.

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