On this page:
Why do people have pain after stroke?
Why do people have headaches after stroke?
Do they get better?
Are there treatments that can help?
Find out more

There may be a number of different reasons why you experience pain or headaches after a stroke. 

Why do people have pain after stroke?

It’s very common for a stroke to cause weakness in your muscles. This usually happens on one side of your body. This weakness can lead to painful conditions such as muscle stiffness (spasticity), shoulder problems, or swollen hands.

Some people also experience central post-stroke pain. Many people describe this kind of pain as an icy, burning sensation or a throbbing or shooting pain. This can happen if your brain, spinal cord or the sensory pathways that link your brain and other parts of your body are damaged. 

Why do people have headaches after stroke?

You may have headaches if your stroke causes swelling in your brain. This is more common if your stroke was caused by bleeding in your brain.

Headaches can also be a side effect of some medication, including some drugs you may be given for high blood pressure or to thin your blood. Stress, depression or lack of sleep can also cause headaches.

Do they get better?

Pain can persist for some time, but medication and physiotherapy can often help to relieve it. As you recover and develop more movement in your muscles, this can help to reduce the amount of pain you feel. 

Headaches should also lessen over time and can usually be controlled by painkillers such as paracetamol until they do.

Are there treatments that can help?

If your pain is caused by muscle weakness, then physiotherapy should be able to help. If you have spasticity you should have physiotherapy every day to move your joints. This will help to stretch your muscles and keep them flexible. Sometimes Botox can help to treat spasticity as well.

It’s important to position your arms and legs in the right way, to avoid pain developing, especially shoulder pain. Your stroke team will be able to show you, and provide supports and slings if you need them.

Medication can help to manage your pain. There are a number of different options, so talk to your doctor about what may be best for you. 

If you are having a lot of problems, your doctor may be able to refer you to a pain clinic or pain management programme that can help you find ways to manage it and help improve your quality of life. 

Find out more

Share