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Keywords:

  • posttraumatic headaches;
  • posttraumatic stress disorder;
  • accidents

Objective.—This study examined somatic, psychological, and cognitive functioning of subjects with posttraumatic headache in comparison with multiple control groups.

Background.—Posttraumatic headache is not as widely studied as other forms of headache (eg, tension-type, migraine). Previous research has suggested poor psychological functioning in patients with posttraumatic headache in comparison with other groups of patients with pain; however, this group has yet to be compared with a group of persons who have experienced trauma but are headache-free.

Design and Methods.—Nineteen subjects with posttraumatic headache were studied, with full assessments available for 14 participants. Comparison groups, containing 16 participants each, included another headache group, a nonheadache group, and a trauma (motor vehicle accident) survivor nonheadache group. Participants completed several measures assessing somatic, psychological, and cognitive functioning.

Results.—Findings revealed that the posttraumatic headache group exhibited significantly poorer functioning than the comparison groups on several measures including the Psychosomatic Symptom Checklist, Postconcussion Syndrome Checklist, axis II psychiatric diagnoses, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and the Daily Hassles Scale (frequency and total). Additionally, they scored higher on the following: number of axis I psychiatric diagnoses, the Daily Hassles Scale (intensity), Beck Depression Inventory, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, and State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory. The posttraumatic headache group was similar to the other trauma group on the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Checklist and the Life-Trauma Checklist.

Conclusions.—This study confirmed the distress seen in this understudied population of persons with headache and highlights areas of focus for proper assessment and treatment of those with headache and who have had an accident.