Smartphone overuse might worsen pain and sleep quality among individuals with migraine

Do you get frequent migraines? If so, your cellphone might be making them worse. A study published in Brain and Behavior indicates that frequent cellphone usage could worsen pain associated with migraines, lessen sleep, and reduce the effectiveness of treatments.

Smartphones are associated with a plethora of negative side effects, including headaches, sleep disturbance, dizziness, and more. As the number of smartphone users is very high and only increasing, this has serious implications for many people’s health and well-being.

Migraines are a pervasive neurological disorder that are associated with headaches. Migraines can be debilitating and detrimental to sufferer’s functioning. Despite this, there is limited research into the effect of smartphone usage on migraine symptomology. This study seeks to bridge this gap in research.

Mehwish Butt and colleagues utilized 400 adult smartphone users to serve as their sample. Participants were recruited between August 2021 and January 2022 from two neurology clinics in private hospitals in Pakistan. Participants needed to use their smartphones for over 30 minutes per day to be included in this study. Exclusion criteria included other neurological, vascular, or psychiatric disorders.

Participants completed measures on demographic information, problematic phone use, pain severity, disability due to migraine, quality of life, sleepiness, and quality of sleep. Participants were separated into a high mobile phone use group and a low mobile phone use group based on aforementioned measures.

Results showed that among the participants who had high smartphone usage, migraine pain severity was significantly greater than participants who had low smartphone usage. Migraine frequency did not differ significantly between groups but was slightly higher among the low smartphone usage group.

Participants in the low smartphone usage group reported that medication helped alleviate their pain intensity more than it did for participants who used their cellphones more often. The low phone usage group reported higher disability levels, while the high usage group reported worse sleep quality and more physical discomfort.

This study took steps into better understanding the relationship between migraines and smartphone usage. Regardless, there are limitations to note. Firstly, this study is cross-sectional, which does not allow for a causal conclusion to be drawn. Additionally, this study utilized all self-report measures, which are particularly vulnerable to bias and memory impairments. Lastly, there are many factors that can influence migraines, which could not all be controlled for or even identified for this study.

“Further research is required to understand the mechanism underlying smartphone usage and its negative consequences, and effective treatment must be identified for these individuals,” the researchers said.

The study, “Association of increased pain intensity, daytime sleepiness, poor sleep quality, and quality of life with mobile phone overuse in patients with migraine: A multicenter, cross-sectional comparative study“, was authored by Mehwish Butt, Yeny Chavarria, Jesse Ninmol, Aabiya Arif, Sameer Saleem Tebha, Muhammad Daniyal, Umesa Mazhar Siddiqui, Syeda Samia Shams, Qubra Sarfaraz, Syeda Fatima Haider, and Mohammad Yasir Essar.

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