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Surprising Ways Quarantine Affects Migraine

While the COVID-19 quarantine is making most people feel anxious, people with migraine may notice that their symptoms are less severe. Some even report fewer attacks and less pain during the pandemic

That’s the unexpected result of a survey conducted by phone among migraine patients in Italy. It found that during the quarantine, patients experienced fewer migraine attacks and less pain but exhibited moderate levels of depression and anxiety. The findings were published in Neurological Sciences.

Although the analysis found mild to moderate levels of depression and mild levels of anxiety during a 2-month period of quarantine, due to lack of data, researchers were unable to compare the information with the period before lockdown.


The study yielded the following results:

  • Mean (SD) GAMS value was 5.61 (0.76) before and 4.16 (1.46) during quarantine (P < .001)
  • Mean (SD) VAS was 7.49 (1.10) before and 5.47 (1.88) during quarantine (P < .001)
  • Frequency of triptan utilization for migraine attacks (mean [SD] number pills/week) was 2.84 (2.54) in the period before as opposed to 2.00 (1.78) during quarantine (P = .041)
  • Mean (SD) value of Beck and Zung scales were 13.10 (7.33) and 22.71 (13.36), respectively, indicating the presence of a mild to moderate level of depression and normal to mild level of anxiety during quarantine
  • Mixed analyses of variance on migraine severity, measured both with GAMS and VAS, showed a main effect on time of F(1,47) = 12.45 (P = .001) and F(1,47) = 18.87 (P < .001), respectively, indicating an amelioration of migraine symptoms
  • Time by depression level interaction, F(1,47) = 6.21 (P = .016) and F(1,47) = 14.52 (P < .006), respectively, showed that subjects with lower level of depression had better course of migraine

Researchers hypothesized that the prolonged period of time spent at home may have reduced outside stressors coming from work and social activity, thus reducing triggers of migraine attacks. Furthermore, presence of anxiety and depression could be related to the specific cause of lockdown: the COVID-19 pandemic. However, data did show “an interaction between depression and migraine burden, with better course of migraine in less depressed subjects.”

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