When it comes to headaches, there’s simply too much that we don’t know.

As discussed earlier on the blog, there is no known cure or complete treatment for headache pain–especially migraine pain. In that piece, however, we discussed some of the very first medications that are being developed specifically for migraine patients. Similarly, researchers are beginning to target their headache research to better understand and treat headache pain.

In an article titled “If headache is the answer, what are the questions?” researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology approached the problem of headaches by trying to redefine how we test for and understand them. Their headache research is part of a larger international program by the World Health Organization (WHO) called “Lifting the Burden: The Global Campaign to Reduce the Burden of Headache.”

The researchers suggest that headaches are misunderstood because there are so many differences in headaches worldwide.

As the article notes:

Research results about headaches have been collected from all over the world. But because the questions vary or they are asked in different ways, the results are not comparable. Also, the results must be interpreted in the context of each country. 

The result of their headache research is an international questionnaire published in the Journal of Headache and Pain.

Researchers hope that by using a standard, international questionnaire, headache researchers and doctors will be able to collect invaluable data about how, when, and why headaches occur. Patients will be asked questions about their families, overall health, quality of life, and other matters to get a better overall picture of headache pain.

For example, researchers puzzled over the question normally asked patients regarding sick leave for headaches. As they write:

If you ask someone in Norway if they have been absent from work because of headaches, you will probably get far more yes answers than in Ethiopia… In Norway, you get paid sick leave if you are away from work, which means the threshold for staying at home is low. In Ethiopia, you go to work in the fields because you have to.

By avoiding these cultural differences, researchers are hoping to create a better projection of how much headache pain actually does affect people worldwide, as well as its economic impacts.

The questionnaire is the result of projects in over 30 countries over the course of 10 years.  

As noted, it is part of a WHO global campaign against headaches. Lifting the Burden is a joint effort between the World Headache Alliance, the International Headache Society, the European Headache Federation, and the World Health Organization. Through headache research and funding, they hope to raise awareness of the economic and social burdens of headaches and to implement healthcare solutions to better treat them.

Do you notice differences between your perceptions of headaches and your family members or friends? 

Image by Suketu Gajjar via Flickr


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