Military Sexual Trauma Survivors Show Increased Risk Of Migraine


MST and Headaches

Military sexual trauma is associated with a higher risk of migraine headaches.  Researchers at Boston University recently reported that men and women veterans who reported being victims of military sexual trauma also reported a higher rate of migraine headaches.  Out of more than 800,000 veterans who were screened for the study, 37,375 were positive for military sexual trauma; approximately 66 percent were women and 34 percent men.  21.7 percent of the victims of military sexual trauma reported migraine headaches, as opposed to only 9 percent for those veterans who did not report a history of sexual trauma.  Dr. John Ney, MD, MPH, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University, cautioned that the study only showed an association between military sexual trauma and migraine, and is not proof that trauma causes migraines.  But he also noted that “migraines are exacerbated by poor sleep, and prior studies show associations with psychiatric conditions from stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder.”  He observed that “military sexual trauma may precipitate a similar phenomenon, and headaches or other pain syndromes may be unmasked by the sequalae of sexual trauma.”

Not only do these veterans have a higher risk for migraines, the researchers found their treatment varied from the normal course.  Dr. Ney noted that these veterans were “more often using acute health care resources such as emergency departments for treatment of their migraines and were more prone towards using medications that were not recommended by the American Academy of Neurology and American Headache Society for headache treatment.”

Nina Riggins, MD, assistant clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, in a comment on the study, noted that “knowing the history and triggers can help to guide treatment options for these individuals with migraine. It is important to avoid opioids when possible in people living with migraine. The combination of behavioral therapy, migraine management, and addressing any other conditions potentially connected to sexual trauma, can be beneficial for improvement of functioning, symptoms, and quality of life.”

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