Beware! Smartphones may make your headaches worse: AIIMS  

The smartphone users were more likely to take pain-relieving drugs for their headaches than non-users, with 96% of smartphone users taking the drugs as compared to 81% of non-users

Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images


Smartphone users who suffer from regular headaches and migraines may be more likely to use painkillers and find less relief, say researchers at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

For the study, published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice, researchers have identified 400 people in India with a primary headache condition, which includes migraine, tension headache and other headache types that are not due to another condition.

"While the results need to be confirmed with larger and more rigorous studies, the findings are concerning, as smartphone use is growing rapidly and has been linked to a number of symptoms, with headache being the most common," said study author Deepti Vibha, from AIIMS in New Delhi.

According to the researchers, the study does not prove that smartphone use causes greater use of pain medication and less relief; it only shows an association.

For the findings, the research team asked the people about their smartphone use and their headaches and medication use.

Of the 400 people, 206 were smartphone users and 194 were non-users.

People who did not use smartphones were older, had a lower education level and were more likely to have a low socioeconomic status than those who did use smartphones.

The smartphone users were more likely to take pain-relieving drugs for their headaches than non-users, with 96 per cent of smartphone users taking the drugs as compared to 81 per cent of non-users.

Smartphone users took an average of eight pills per month compared to five pills per month for non-users, the study said.

Smartphone users also reported less relief from the medication, with 84 per cent gaining moderate or complete relief of headache pain compared to 94 per cent of non-users.

However, the study did not find any difference between the two groups in how often headaches occurred, how long they lasted or how severe they were.

The researchers noted that the study only examined people at one point in time; it did not follow them to look for changes over time.

"The root of the problem is not yet clear. Is it a user's neck position? Or the phone's lighting? Or eye strain? Or the stress of being connected at all times? Answers will likely emerge in upcoming years and eventually guide strategies for more sustainable use of the devices," said Heidi Moawad, member of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Features such as hands-free settings, voice activation and audio functions could potentially hold the key to helping smartphone users benefit from their phones without exacerbating their headaches," Moawad added.

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