Chronic Migraine Relief Starts in Childhood

chronic migraines and childhood abuse

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As a parent, it breaks my heart to think of any child having to worry about things like being loved, fed properly and treated with respect. Unfortunately, the effects of childhood maltreatment can last a lifetime.

This maltreatment can come in the form of nutritional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or emotional abuse.  While I firmly believe that the damage from raising a malnourished child can be greatly reduced or even eliminated by better nutritional choices in the future, the other forms of abuse, however, leave scars that are worn on the inside.  These scars can’t be seen with an MRI, CT scan or bloodwork.  And far too often as the abused child grows into adulthood he or she may not even recognize the damage that has been done.

Or many may think that they have risen above it and it remains a dim memory.  Little does he or she think that being raised in an abusive household is now playing a major role in why he or she is depressed, obese, has high blood pressure and heart disease.  Or that abuse from decades ago may be a critical factor in the fact that he or she suffers from chronic migraines.

To understand just how strong these links can be, this particular study looked at the relationship between childhood maltreatment and headaches.  Researchers looked at  8,305 people who suffered from chronic migraines and 1,429 people who had episodic tension-type headaches to see if recalled adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) played a role in the headaches.  Here’s what they found:

  • 24.5% of migraine sufferers had ACEs and 21.5% of chronic tension headache sufferers also had ACEs.
  • Migraines were linked to emotional abuse (22.5%) as well as tension headaches (16.7%).
  • Sexual abuse in migraines was 17.7% and 13.3% in tension headaches.
  • Overall, migraine sufferers were 23% more likely to have reported emotional neglect, 46% higher emotional abuse and 35% more likely to have experienced sexual abuse than those with chronic tension type headaches.

Overall, both groups of chronic headache sufferers had strong relationships to adverse childhood experiences, but the migraine sufferers were much more likely to have experienced childhood abuse.

This was a very large study, encompassing about 10,000 headache sufferers.  It is astounding that almost 1/4 of this group had experienced childhood abuse.  Maybe psychologists out there that deal with past childhood experiences may not be as surprised as I am about just how common this is, but quite frankly it disgusts me.

Even worse, this damage carries forward and can drastically affect the health of the child as he or she grows up.  There is nothing fair at all to the adult who is suffering today as a result of abuse that happened in the past when it was well beyond his or her ability to control.

If you suffer from chronic migraine headaches and have been a victim of abuse as a child, it seems clear that developing a relationship with a skilled therapist to help you manage your health should be as essential as a part of your team as a chiropractor or neurologist.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.