SOURCE: National Headache Foundation

National Headache Foundation

December 07, 2010 09:00 ET

Soldiers Returning From Active Duty With Significant Rates of Migraine and Related Health Conditions

National Headache Foundation Launches "War Veterans Health Resource Initiative" to Help Ease Transition Back to Civilian Life

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - December 7, 2010) -  Studies have shown that soldiers returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan have been found to have nearly double the rates of migraine compared to the general population, as well as higher incidences of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. Now, veterans returning from active duty with these conditions have access to a new program that will ease their transition back home. The National Headache Foundation (NHF) has launched the War Veterans Health Resource Initiative, which provides veterans with a single, comprehensive source for information on all aspects of post-deployment life, including headache and migraine.

Research has shown that migraine headaches often occur with conditions that specifically affect war veterans -- PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and depression. In one study of 3,621 U.S. soldiers screened within 90 days of returning from a one-year combat tour in Iraq, 19 percent were found to have migraine, with migraine suspected in an additional 17 percent of soldiers.(i) In comparison, the expected prevalence of migraine in the general population is approximately 10 percent. The study also found alarming rates of depression (32 percent), PTSD (22 percent), and anxiety (13 percent). In addition, approximately 70 percent of people who have suffered from a mild TBI complain of post-traumatic headache.(ii) Another study has also shown PTSD to potentially be a risk factor for chronic migraine headache.

People need to understand that migraine is not just a bad headache; it is a neuro-biological disease that often comes with severe nausea, blinding light sensitivity, extreme noise sensitivity, vertigo, and visual aura that makes handling weapons and heavy equipment nearly impossible. "It is a disease that can take a physically fit and mentally tough young soldier and remove them from active duty," said Dr. Marc Husid, director of the Walton Headache Center of Walton Rehabilitation Health System in Augusta, Georgia.

Headache and migraine are common conditions on and off the battlefield -- forty million people live with chronic headache, and three quarters of them suffer from migraine. Migraine is a debilitating neurological condition characterized by throbbing pain, usually located on one side of the head and often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Poorly managed migraine translates to a potentially huge impact on a patient's quality of life -- from missed or non-productive work days to lost family and personal time.

The War Veterans Health Resource Initiative: A Hub for Post-Deployment Life

"When the NHF first learned of the growing issue of headache disorders with returning soldiers, we turned to experts in the field for suggestions about how to help. The War Veterans Health Resource Initiative is our first program, providing active duty, reserve, and discharged military personnel with the information that can help them manage their headaches and find the right treatment," said Robert Dalton, executive director, NHF. "We are pursuing more resources, including research funding and support group locations in areas with a large military population. NHF has helped a lot of civilians with similar problems and we want to go the extra mile for those who have served." 

The War Veterans Health Resource Initiative, housed at, is a hub for information and support covering all aspects of post-deployment life. It puts veterans and their families in touch with trusted organizations that provide free brochures, books, and other educational materials. Veterans can access links to a variety of information, including military discounts, medical experts, treatment facilities, physical therapy, mental health counseling, job training and disability claims assistance. There are also online forums available to share stories and discuss experiences.

"I have been seeing a lot of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with migraines. It is a complex health care problem, with many factors that can increase or decrease the frequency and duration of attacks. The NHF site is going to be useful to my patients and their families in dealing with this challenge," said Dr. Husid.

About the National Headache Foundation

The NHF is a nonprofit organization that has pioneered the way headaches have been diagnosed and treated over the last 40 years. No other organization provides such comprehensive educational resources and tools to headache sufferers, their families, physicians who treat headache sufferers, allied healthcare professionals and to the public. The leaders of the organization are world-renowned experts in the field who have pulled together many easy-to-use tools and resources to help people better understand headaches and options for headache care. 

The National Headache Foundation is encouraging our returning veterans and their healthcare providers to attend a 2011 regional conference to help fight the battle against migraine & headache and traumatic brain injury & posttraumatic stress disorder on Saturday, March 5, 2011 in Augusta, GA.

This information is available on the NHF website at or by calling 1-888-NHF-5552 (M-F, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT).

(i) American Headache Society (2010, June 23). Sleep quality of soldiers with migraine is poor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 14, 2010, from­/releases/2010/06/100623085524.htm 


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