Childhood injury linked to later tension headache

NEW YORK, Dec 20 (Reuters Health) - People who experience a neck or back injury before age 13 appear to be at risk of developing tension-type headaches, according to New Zealand researchers.

Tension-type headache is the most common type of headache, and is characterized by steady pain, tightness or pressure around the head and neck.

This is not true for young adults with migraines, according to the report by Dr. Karen E. Waldie of the University of Auckland, and R. Poulton of the University of Otago. Migraines are especially disabling headaches that may occur on one side of the head, last for between 4 and 72 hours, and cause symptoms such as sensitivity to light and nausea.

The researchers found that those young adults with migraines were more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety in childhood. The findings are published in the January issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

However, it is not clear if the high levels of anxiety increase the risk of migraine, or the anxiety and migraines are both caused by an underlying problem.

The results are "consistent with the idea that those with migraine inherit a nervous system that is more sensitive to and more easily aroused by its surroundings," the authors write.
In the study, the researchers followed 979 people from age 3 until they were 26 years old. The children took many different types of personality tests and, as they got older, answered questions about stress, lifestyle habits, injuries and headaches.

At age 26, 7% of the participants reported having migraines, 11% had tension headaches and 4% suffered from both types of headaches during the year prior to being interviewed.

People who suffered from tension-type headaches were more likely to have had a childhood neck or back injury, the researchers found.

Women were found to be four times more likely to have migraines and twice as likely to get tension-type headaches compared with men, the report indicates.

SOURCE: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 2002;72:86-92.