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Migraines Twitter Helps Researchers Understand


Social media, more specifically, Twitter, is helping researchers collect data and understand more about migraine symptoms. In a new study, published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Twitter is highlighted as a tool that has given researchers an enormous amount of information about people who suffer from migraines and how it impacts their daily lives.

In this unique study, researchers were able to collect 21,741 tweets about migraines. Of those tweets, 35 percent were separated and discarded due to ads, retweets, and general discussion. The remaining tweets helped the research team to understand and analyze exactly how people are expressing suffering from a migraine, and in what circumstances they will share what they are feeling with others. Alexandre DaSilva is a professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry and is the leader of the Twitter migraine study. DaSilva explains this is the first study that shows the huge impact migraines have on the person suffering and as a result, on their daily life.

DaSilva and 50 students were able to code and analyze the tweets, categorizing them according to time of day, profanities, locations, mood, and impact of daily life. Of the tweets, 74 percent came from females, Monday mornings were found to be the most common time in which people suffered, and 58 percent of the tweets came from people in the United States. It was also found 44 percent of the tweets indicated the migraines directly impacted their mood negatively.

A migraine is described as a headache that includes intense throbbing and/or a pulsing sensation in the head. Migraines can also be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to sound and light. Some people may even experience migraines for days at a time, continuing to be in significant pain. Warning signs for migraines include flashes of light, blind spots, and even a tingling in an arm or leg. Of the people who experience migraines, 75 percent have a reduced functionality, and 30 percent of people require bed rest.

There is help for migraine suffers. Medication can help control migraines, to a certain extent and reduce the frequency or severity of the symptoms. Through studying Twitter and trying to understand migraines, researchers have found that if people tweet about how they feel, it may help them to feel better. Expressing the pain to others can actually have a cathartic effect on the person and positively impact their mood.

Headaches and migraines are some of the most common nervous system disorders as about 47 percent of adults have experienced one in the last year, according to World Health Organization. DaSilva explains that talking to others about the pain we experience is made easier through the increase of technology. For the first time ever, a study was conducted over Twitter and it helped researchers gain an understanding about how migraines affect people in their daily lives. This fresh take on a study provides accurate information about migraine suffers and how they cope with their pain.

Opinion By Sara Petersen

The State Column