Childhood Abuse and Chronic Migraine

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August 27, 2015

Don’t underestimate the importance of good mental health. Psychological as well as physical traumatic events that occur during a person’s earliest years can have a lifelong lasting impact in immeasurable ways. By the time a person is an adult with a migraine condition, these events are long forgotten. Their residual impact may never be addressed. A recent medical study could help some chronic migraine sufferers finally get the effective migraine treatment they need.

Experts from the Montefiore Headache Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine wanted to better understand the effects of childhood abuse on adult migraine compared with tension headache conditions. They differentiated the traumatic psychological experiences between sexual abuse, emotional neglect and emotional abuse. Neglect was defined to include situations where the damaging words or actions, whether intentional or unintentional, consisted of failure to properly provide for the child. Abuse was defined as the intentional harmful actions or words directed toward the child.

They discovered that among migraineurs, 24.5 percent of the subjects were likely to have endured childhood emotional abuse. Whereas among headache sufferers, the scientists found that 21.5 percent had experienced childhood abuse. Of the 9,734 subjects, 1,429 had a tension headache condition, and 8,305 suffered with migraine. The study, which was published in the journal Neurology, extended medical knowledge gained from prior studies that proved abused children had an increased risk for developing headache conditions. This team was focused on determining whether migraine, in contrast to other headaches like tension type, was more likely.

A neurologist, who was interviewed for a Medical News Today story about the study, said this latest research can help direct future migraine treatment strategies for people who experienced negative childhood events. One of the researchers said, “Childhood maltreatment can have long-lasting effects like associated medical and psychological conditions, including migraine, in adulthood. When managing patients with migraine, neurologists should take childhood maltreatment into consideration.”

So how can the information learned from this study help you or someone you know who may be struggling with chronic migraines linked with a childhood abuse situation? A good starting point would be to discuss these concerns with the migraine specialist. Getting a psychological assessment and appropriate therapy can be the missing link to augment ongoing migraine treatment.



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