New tweetment: Twitter users describe real-time migraine agony

April 3, 2014, University of Michigan

Someone's drilling an icicle into your temple, you're throwing up, and light and sound are unbearable.

Yes, it's another . But now in 140 characters on Twitter, you can share your agony with other sufferers. It indicates a trend toward the cathartic sharing of physical pain, as well as emotional pain on social media.

"As technology and language evolve, so does the way we share our suffering," said principal investigator Alexandre DaSilva, assistant professor and director of the Headache and Orofacial Pain Effort at University of Michigan School of Dentistry. "It's the first known study to show the instant and broad impact of migraine attacks on modern patients' lives by decoding manually each one of their individual attack-related tweets."

DaSilva's team, including research fellows Thiago Nascimento and Marcos DosSantos, worked with 50 students and residents to categorize 21,741 tweets. They eliminated advertising, metaphor and nonrelated migraine tweets, which has not been done in previous studies. Further, they analyzed the meaning of each individual migraine tweet.

"We sought to evaluate the instant expression of actual self-reported migraine attacks in social media," DaSilva said.

Results generated unique information about who suffers from migraines and what, how, where and when they use social media to describe their pain. The findings overlapped significantly with other traditional epidemiologic migraine studies, DaSilva and colleagues said.

Among other things, they examined the most common descriptors for migraines, including profanities, tweet times and locations, and impact on productivity and mood. Only 65 percent of the migraine tweets were from actual sufferers of migraines posting in real-time. Other tweets were advertising, general discussion, retweets, etc., indicating that not everything in is meaningful to the patient, DaSilva said.

Among the findings:

  • Females accounted for about 74 percent of migraine tweets; males accounted for 17 percent.
  • The higher global peak of migraine tweets occurred Mondays at 14:00 GMT, or 10 a.m Eastern Daylight Saving Time.
  • The U.S. accounted for 58 percent of migraine tweets, followed by Europe at 20 percent.
  • In the U.S., migraine tweets peaked at 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays. The morning tweets peaked later on weekends.
  • Roughly 44 percent of reported that migraine attacks immediately impacted mood.
  • The most common migraine descriptors were "worst" at nearly 15 percent and "massive" at 8 percent.

Migraines pose a huge public health problem, harming mood, productivity and overall quality of life. An estimated 12 percent of the Western world population suffer migraine attacks, and of those, 75 percent see reduced functionality and 30 percent require bed rest.

Explore further: Hologram-like 3-D brain helps researchers decode migraine pain (w/ Video)

More information: The study appears April 3 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. It will be available at: www.jmir.org/2014/4/e96

Related Stories

Hologram-like 3-D brain helps researchers decode migraine pain (w/ Video)

April 19, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Wielding a joystick and wearing special glasses, pain researcher Alexandre DaSilva rotates and slices apart a large, colorful, 3-D brain floating in space before him.

FDA approves electric headband to prevent migraine

March 11, 2014
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it approved a Belgium-made nerve-stimulating headband as the first medical device to prevent migraine headaches.

Obesity may be associated with even occasional migraines

September 11, 2013
People who get occasional migraines are more likely to be obese than people who do not have migraines, according to a study published in the September 11, 2013, online issue of Neurology.

New mobile app helps migraine sufferers track and analyze pain

November 5, 2012
A new iPhone app developed at the University of Michigan lets migraine or facial pain patients easily track and record their pain, which in turn helps the treating clinician develop a pain management plan.

Migraine patients find pain relief in electrical brain stimulation

April 20, 2012
Chronic migraine sufferers saw significant pain relief after four weeks of electrical brain stimulation in the part of the brain responsible for voluntary movement, the motor cortex, according to a new study.

Migraine attacks increase following stress 'let-down'

March 26, 2014
Migraine sufferers who experienced reduced stress from one day to the next are at significantly increased risk of migraine onset on the subsequent day, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Montefiore Headache ...

Recommended for you

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Creation of synthetic horsepox virus could lead to more effective smallpox vaccine

January 19, 2018
UAlberta researchers created a new synthetic virus that could lead to the development of a more effective vaccine against smallpox. The discovery demonstrates how techniques based on the use of synthetic DNA can be used to ...

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.