Adults Abused As Children Twice As Likely To Suffer Migraine Headaches [Study]

A study coming from Minneapolis found that adults who experienced abuse or neglect in their childhood are more likely to develop migraines, rather than tension-type headaches. The findings of the new study were published in the December 24 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The primary study author, Gretchen E. Tietjen, MD, Distinguished Professor of Neurology, director of the University of Toledo Headache Center in Ohio, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, explained the findings of the new study.

“The percentage of people who were emotionally abused or neglected or experienced sexual abuse was significantly higher among people with migraine than in those who had tension-type headache. Emotional abuse showed the strongest link.”

According to Health Canal, the study looked at 8,305 people with migraine and 1,429 with tension-type headaches. Three types of childhood mistreatment reported by participants were categorized: emotional neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Emotional child abuse involves intentionally doing or saying things to a child in order to cause mental anguish, such as threatening violence. Emotional neglect, in contrast, involves not doing things that promote emotional well-being and can be intentional or unintentional. A total of 24.5 percent of those with migraine had experienced emotional abuse during childhood, compared to 21.5 percent of those with tension headache, which is a statistically significant finding, even after factors such as age, socioeconomic status, anxiety and depression, and household income were accounted for.

Those who experienced mistreatment as children were 33 percent more likely to experience migraine headaches. Migraines are a particular kind of headache, characterized by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. In many people, a throbbing pain is felt only on one side of the head. They are often debilitating, and are one of the top reasons for missing work in the United States. It is believed that the pain of a migraine is due to the vasospasm of blood vessels in the head.

There is no specific cure for migraine headaches, but there are many treatments, including prescription medications. The goal is to treat migraine symptoms right away, and to prevent symptoms by avoiding or changing triggers, or things known to cause migraines in certain individuals. These may include alcohol, stress, sleep deprivation, aged cheeses, and perfume.

Dawn C. Buse, Ph.D., director, Behavioral Medicine, Montefiore Headache Center and associate professor, Clinical Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says this study’s finding is important in assessing and treating patients with migraine headaches.

“When managing patients with migraine, neurologists should take childhood maltreatment into consideration.”