The more forms of abuse experienced in childhood, the more likely a person is to have frequent headaches, according to the largest study to date examining the relationship of recurrent headache to childhood abuse and other stressful experiences.

The study assessed eight adverse childhood experiences: emotional, physical and sexual abuse, witnessing domestic violence, growing up with mentally ill, substance abusing, or criminal household members, and parental separation/divorce. Having frequent headaches was linked to each type, and as a person’s “score” (i.e., number of adverse experiences) rose, the prevalence increased. The risk was double in people with a score of five or more compared to those with a score of 0.

“There are mounting biological data that childhood stress can affect numerous brain structures and functions,” the study authors wrote in the journal Headache. “A better understanding of the link between adverse childhood experiences and migraine may lead to new knowledge regarding pathophysiology and enhanced additional therapies for all headache patients.”

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