Aug 1, 2013 12:32 AM by NBC News

Treating pain after a concussion

Doctors say the impact of getting hit in the head can cause more than a concussion. It can also cause a secondary injury that results in severe headaches, but now a simple procedure may be able to give these patients their lives back.

"Once college started, they picked up really bad. In the middle of classes, I would get a locked neck and just shooting pains down the back of my head and down the sides," said 18-year old Abby Tyner.

She says her headaches got so bad, she couldn't sit through her classes.

"I would have to put my head down. The only thing that would fix the horrible headache was sleep and pitch dark," she said.

Those headaches started after she suffered three concussions in high school while playing her favorite sports, softball and basketball.

Doctors told her those hits to the head were the cause of her pain. They gave her migraine and pain medications, but the headaches never went away.

"I think overall there's a huge misconception about what really happens," said Dr. Ivica Ducic, a plastic surgeon at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital.

He says he noticed a lot of patients like Tyner suffering from extreme headaches post-concussion, so he started looking closer at the head and neck and found something that other doctors didn't.

"It is a separate injury that took place at the same time," he said.

Dr. Ducic says some of these headaches are being caused by a secondary injury in the neck that occurred during the impact to the head. It causes nerves in the neck to become compressed or even tangled with tendons and muscle.

"The goal of the treatment is to try to bring those nerves back to as close to normal condition to what they were before the event," said Ducic.

The procedure is an outpatient surgery that usually takes about an hour.

Doctors make two small incisions, either in the back, front or side of the head so they can give the nerves more space, making sure they're not being pinched anymore.

Abby Tyner says after recovering for about a week, the headaches were gone.

"It's just a miracle it went away," she said.

The Mayo Clinic says a concussion is a traumatic brain injury that alters the way your brain functions.



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