Mild traumatic brain injury affects the features of migraine

Ryotaro Ishii, Todd J. Schwedt, Meesha Trivedi, Gina Dumkrieger, Melissa M. Cortez, K. C. Brennan, Kathleen Digre, David W. Dodick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Headache is one of the most common symptoms after concussion, and mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is a risk factor for chronic migraine (CM). However, there remains a paucity of data regarding the impact of mTBI on migraine-related symptoms and clinical course. Methods: Of 2161 migraine patients who participated in the American Registry for Migraine Research between February 2016 and March 2020, 1098 completed questions assessing history of TBI (50.8%). Forty-four patients reported a history of moderate to severe TBI, 413 patients reported a history of mTBI. Patients’ demographics, headache symptoms and triggers, history of physical abuse, allodynia symptoms (ASC-12), migraine disability (MIDAS), depression (PHQ-2), and anxiety (GAD-7) were compared between migraine groups with (n = 413) and without (n = 641) a history of mTBI. Either the chi-square-test or Fisher’s exact test, as appropriate, was used for the analyses of categorical variables. The Mann-Whitney test was used for the analyses of continuous variables. Logistic regression models were used to compare variables of interest while adjusting for age, gender, and CM. Results: A significantly higher proportion of patients with mTBI had CM (74.3% [307/413] vs. 65.8% [422/641], P = 0.004), had never been married or were divorced (36.6% [147/402] vs. 29.4% [187/636], P = 0.007), self-reported a history of physical abuse (24.3% [84/345] vs. 14.3% [70/491], P < 0.001), had mild to severe anxiety (50.5% [205/406] vs. 41.0% [258/630], P = 0.003), had headache-related vertigo (23.0% [95/413] vs. 15.9% [102/640], P = 0.009), and difficulty finding words (43.0% [174/405] vs. 32.9% [208/633], P < 0.001) in more than half their attacks, and headaches triggered by lack of sleep (39.4% [155/393] vs. 32.6% [198/607], P = 0.018) and reading (6.6% [26/393] vs. 3.0% [18/607], P = 0.016), compared to patients without mTBI. Patients with mTBI had significantly greater ASC-12 scores (median [interquartile range]; 5 [1–9] vs. 4 [1–7], P < 0.001), MIDAS scores (42 [18–85] vs. 34.5 [15–72], P = 0.034), and PHQ-2 scores (1 [0–2] vs. 1 [0–2], P = 0.012). Conclusion: Patients with a history of mTBI are more likely to have a self-reported a history of physical abuse, vertigo, and allodynia during headache attacks, headaches triggered by lack of sleep and reading, greater headache burden and headache disability, and symptoms of anxiety and depression. This study suggests that a history of mTBI is associated with the phenotype, burden, clinical course, and associated comorbid diseases in patients with migraine, and highlights the importance of inquiring about a lifetime history of mTBI in patients being evaluated for migraine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number80
JournalJournal of Headache and Pain
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • American registry for migraine research (ARMR)
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic migraine
  • Depression
  • Disability
  • Migraine
  • Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)
  • Physical abuse
  • Post-traumatic headache
  • Psychiatric comorbidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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