Severity of Concussion Symptoms Linked to Migraines

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Migraines are a term thrown around a lot by people who often have no idea what they are. For anyone who suffers from migraine they know that these specific headaches are often debilitating. The pain, nausea and complete inability to function can make accomplishing tasks or living a normal life impossible for many.

Migraines can be triggered by many things including hormonal changes, food triggers, sleep (too much or too little), stress, depression, and fluctuations in barometric pressure. They are often accompanied by an ‘aura’ before hand which can cause hypersensitivity to tase, smell or light and can include vomiting or diarrhea.

Migraines are complex and can cause severe debilitating pulsing pain or pounding in the head. Usually they are on one side or the other but can be in the whole head. Migraine symptoms can also include:

  •           Blurry vision
  •          Dizziness
  •          Sweating or chills
  •          Loss of appetite
  •          Nausea, upset stomach and vomiting
  •          Continued sensitivity ro smell, light and taste

Some people have them once or twice a year or for others they can occur several times a week coming in clusters. Migraines have been linked to pain medication addictions, depression, and higher risk of stroke. There is more bad news for migraine sufferers though.

New research shows that a person’s migraine history may forecast their concussion symptom severity.

Results from The Toronto Concussion Study, presented virtually at the 2020 American Headache Society (AHS) Annual Meeting, suggests that individuals who sustained a concussion and have a pre-injury history of migraine, especially if the pre-accident attacks of migraine were more frequent than monthly, have a worse post-concussion recovery.


Data showed that those with pre-accident lifetime history of migraine had significantly higher Sports Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT-3) symptom score (16.9; standard deviation [SD], 4.7; P <.001) and symptom severity score (52.3; SD, 26.1; P <.001) scores than those without prior migraine at Week 1.


“When stratified according to pre-accident migraine frequency, the recovery trajectory of headache following concussion improves for all groups over the 16 weeks followed. The group with migraines at least once monthly pre-concussion had a trend towards slower recovery than those with less frequent pre-injury migraines,” the authors wrote.

Langer and colleagues found that 46% experienced migraine every few months, 16% did not in the past year, 14% had migraines once per month, 10% had twice per month, 8% had them 2–3 times per week, and 6% experienced them once per week.

It was noted in the presentation that no patients had headaches >15 days per month in the year pre-concussion.

Researchers concluded that not only does having pre-injury history of migraine have an impact on post-concussion trajectory, but the frequency of attacks compared to monthly can directly increase the number and severity of post-concussion symptoms.

If you are unsure whether you are a migraine sufferer or whether what you have is simply a headache this chart may help. You should consult your physician for a diagnosis of true migraine. You should also tell your health care providers that you are a migraine sufferer in the event of a concussion. Thanks to Advil for the chart.

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