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Spinal Cord Injury Raises the Risk of Migraine

Migraine is associated with several health conditions, and new research from Canada indicates it frequently develops after a spinal cord injury (SCI) and lessens individuals’ overall sense of well-being.

In a study of more than 61,000 patients included in the cross-sectional Canadian Community Health Survey, researchers found that migraine is more likely among those who had a SCI (28.9%) than without (9.9%). Furthermore, individuals who experience both SCI and migraine rated their general health lower than those who had sustained such an injury but did not suffer from migraine. Among those with both disorders, nearly 34% rated their health as poor compared to less than 19% of those with SCI but without migraine. This finding is of particular concern, the authors said, because low self-reported health status is associated with a higher risk of mortality, regardless of actual health conditions, physical disability, and lifestyle risk factors.

The association between migraines and SCI was considerably higher than the risk of other secondary conditions more commonly linked with SCI, including Type 2 diabetes, chronic respiratory conditions, heart disease, and stroke. Additionally, the authors noted that the migraine-SCI association could be because patients acquire migraine in response to damage in the spinal cord, or develop the headache disorder as a result of other complications frequently associated with SCI, such as chronic pain.

The study was led by Freda M. Warner of the School of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She and her co-authors called for more research to further explore the relationship between SCI and migraine and stated that improvements in clinical practice for such patients are important to help raise their quality of life.

The study was published in PLOS One.


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