Headache. 2023 Aug 28. doi: 10.1111/head.14604. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: To examine whether sensory hypersensitivity contributes to headache-related disability in a secondary analysis of patients with post-traumatic headache.
BACKGROUND: Up to one-third of individuals with traumatic brain injuries report persistent headache 3 months post-injury. High rates of allodynia and photophobia have been observed in clinical studies and animal models of post-traumatic headache, but we do not fully understand how sensory amplifications impact post-traumatic headache-related disability.
METHODS: We identified a cross-sectional sample of patients from the American Registry for Migraine Research database with new or worsening headaches post-head injury from 2016 to 2020 and performed a secondary analysis of those data. We modeled the relationship between sensory sensitivity and Migraine Disability Assessment scores using questionnaires. Candidate variables included data collection features (study site and year), headache-related and general clinical features (headache frequency, migraine diagnosis, abuse history, sex, age, cognitive and affective symptom scores), and sensory symptoms (related to light, sound, and touch sensitivity).
RESULTS: The final sample included 193 patients (median age 46, IQR 22; 161/193, 83.4% female). Migraine Disability Assessment scores ranged from 0 to 260 (median 47, IQR 87). The final model included allodynia, hyperacusis, photosensitivity, headache days per month, abuse history, anxiety and depression, cognitive dysfunction, and age (R2 = 0.43). An increase of one point in allodynia score corresponded to a 3% increase in headache disability (95% CI: 0%-7%; p = 0.027), an increase of one-tenth of a point in the photosensitivity score corresponded to a 12% increase (95% CI: 3%-25%; p = 0.002), and an increase of one point in the hyperacusis score corresponded to a 2% increase (95% CI: 0%-4%; p = 0.016).
CONCLUSIONS: Increased photosensitivity, allodynia, and hyperacusis were associated with increased headache-related disability in this sample of patients with post-traumatic headache. Symptoms of sensory amplification likely contribute to post-traumatic headache-related disability and merit an ongoing investigation into their potential as disease markers and treatment targets.