Prior studies have established an association between a history of abuse and the development of migraine. This cross-sectional observational study explored the relationship between self-reported abuse history with migraine-related sensory hypersensitivity symptoms.
In total, 588 adult patients with migraine from the American Registry for Migraine Research completed questionnaires: Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7, Patient Health Questionnaire-2 for depression, Photosensitivity Assessment Questionnaire, Hyperacusis Questionnaire, and Allodynia Symptom Checklist. Using four binary screening questions, patients were asked to self-report if they believed they had suffered emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in their lifetime. Differences in questionnaire scores between groups with and without a history of abuse were determined. Regression models adjusted for age, sex, and basic headache features analyzed the relationship between abuse history and sensory hypersensitivity symptoms. Moderation analysis explored the role of headache frequency in this relationship. Mediation analysis assessed the indirect (Mediated) effect (IE) of abuse on sensory hypersensitivity through depression or anxiety. Additional models analyzed relationships between sensory hypersensitivity symptoms and abuse subtypes or the number of abuse subtypes.
Of 588 participants, 222 (38%) reported a history of abuse. Patients with a history of abuse reported statistically significantly greater average headache frequency (7.6 vs. 4.7 days, p = 0.030). Patients with a history of abuse also reported higher average or median questionnaire scores: anxiety (7.6 vs. 4.7, p < 0.001, d = 0.56), depression (1.7 vs. 1.3, p = 0.009, d = 0.24), photophobia (0.54 vs. 0.44, p < 0.001, d = 0.32), hyperacusis (19.6 vs. 14.9, p < 0.001, d = 0.49), ictal allodynia (6.0 vs. 3.0, p < 0.001, d = 0.46), and interictal allodynia (1.0 vs. 0.0, p < 0.001, d = 0.30). After controlling for patient age, sex and years lived with headache, abuse maintained a significant association with every sensory hypersensitivity measure. Headache frequency significantly moderated the relationship between a history of abuse with increased ictal allodynia (p = 0.036). Anxiety significantly mediated the relationships between abuse with photophobia (IE = 0.03, 95% CI = 0.01-0.04), hyperacusis (IE = 1.51, 95% CI = 0.91-2.24), ictal allodynia (IE = 0.02, 95% CI = 0.01-0.04), and interictal allodynia (IE = 0.02, 95% CI = 0.01-0.06). Depression significantly mediated the relationship between abuse with photophobia (IE = 0.02, 95% CI = 0.01-0.03) and with hyperacusis (IE = 0.45, 95% CI = 0.11-0.88). The association between the individual subtypes of abuse and the number of subtypes of abuse with sensory hypersensitivity symptoms varied.
A history of abuse is associated with greater migraine-related sensory hypersensitivity symptoms. To reduce the impact of abuse on migraine symptoms, future studies should explore mechanistic connections between abuse and migraine-associated symptoms.

© 2021 American Headache Society.