This Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, the National Headache Foundation (NHF) and our partner organizations turn our attention toward the growing number of military community members with headache disorders and migraine disease.
Headache and migraine disorders are a pervasive issue among veterans in the United States. From 2000 to 2020, more than 430,000 U.S. service members have a diagnosis for traumatic brain injuries. These brain injuries can lead to post-traumatic headache disorder. Headache and migraine can show up weeks or months after an injury; and the debilitating symptoms can last for years. A study from the Veterans Affairs Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health discovered a significant link between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and combat-related injury among veterans who experienced migraine and tension-type headache. More than 300 veterans visited the Center for services during the study in 2009; nearly half reported experiencing migraine or headache.
The increasing number of headache disorders and migraine disease diagnosed in the military community from PTSD, TBI, or other factors, means that there will be a need for new headache and migraine resources for this community. The National Headache Foundation created Operation Brainstorm to be a health resource initiative specifically for the military community.
Operation Brainstorm is possible through a grant from our inaugural sponsor, Biohaven Pharmaceuticals. Operation Brainstorm consists of a variety of programs:
- Participation at the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Disabled American Veterans annual meetings to continue our listening and gathering of information for development and production of innovative solutions.
- A series of listening tours, hosted and targeted at Veteran Service Organization events to connect post commanders and local veterans together and learn more about migraine disease and headache disorders. The listening tours provide a space for participants to ask questions to a local headache expert and share experiences with those in the military community who best understand their unique situation.
- Responses from these listening tours educate the NHF about unmet needs in the military community and the resources we must allocate for future listening tours.
- Primary care provider training via the National Headache Foundation’s Primary Care Migraine (PCM) educational program. PCM is available to healthcare providers throughout the VA medical system.
Given the prevalence of migraine among veterans and active-duty military, there is an unmet need to share more information and elevate the level of discussion about the disease. Through this program, we hope to reach and support veteran and military patients and physicians.