How to treat a headache after a seizure

  • March 28, 2024
  • 4
In this article
Woman in pain touches head on sofa

Do you experience headaches after seizures? You’re not alone. Studies suggest that up to half of people with epilepsy get some kind of headache during the postictal phase (recovery period after a seizure). 

Having a headache after an epileptic seizure can be really tough. In this blog, you’ll learn more about these headaches, why they might happen, and what you can do about them. 

Headaches after seizures: a common experience

Many people with epilepsy get headaches after seizures. They can affect different people in different ways:

Related: Is there a migraine and epilepsy connection?

Symptoms of headache after epileptic seizure

The kinds of postictal headaches people have can vary a lot. 

It’s most common to experience tension-type headaches after seizures. It can feel like there’s a band squeezing on your scalp or neck. Other people experience migraine-style headaches. This can cause a throbbing pain, often on the sides of the head, along with sensitivity to light. 

In a study of 101 people, most described their postictal headaches as ‘moderate’, about a quarter described them as ‘mild’ and 16% described them as ‘severe’. 

Headaches after seizures usually start very soon (within a few minutes), but they can begin up to three hours later. Headaches after seizures usually last a few hours, but can carry on for up to three days. If the headache is lasting longer, seek medical help. 

Why do people have headaches after epileptic seizures?

There are several possible reasons why people might get headaches after epileptic seizures. It changes from one individual to the next, the kind of epilepsy they have, and other factors such as age. Some possible causes include:

  • Increased flow of blood to the head
  • Changes in metabolism (chemical balance in the brain)
  • Swelling in the brain

How to treat a headache after a seizure

If you experience headaches after seizures, don’t suffer in silence. There are simple and effective things you can do to manage the pain. These fall into two approaches.  

  1. Deal with headaches when they happen

For mild or moderate headaches, the general advice is to take simple over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen. 

If your headaches are more severe, speak to your doctor about getting a prescription for a more powerful painkiller. 

Dealing with headaches when they happen might be the right option if your headaches are relatively mild, don’t last long, or happen rarely (once or twice per year, for instance). 

  1. Prevent headaches before they happen

If you usually or always get headaches after seizures, then trying to prevent them before they happen (known as ‘prophylaxis’) might be the best option. 

There are certain medicines which can help prevent headaches, including valproate (which is also an anti-seizure medication), beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and more. Speak to your doctor about trying one of these medications. 

Get help for headaches after epileptic seizures

If you experience headaches after seizures, speak with your doctor about the issue. There are many things they can do to help you reduce the pain - or even avoid it altogether. 

You might also want to record headaches and similar symptoms in Epsy. You can then show your doctor when you have these headaches, and help them understand your seizures better.

Share article

Get the #1 epilepsy app now

Read next