Doctors seeing increase in patients complaining of worsening migraines during pandemic

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(CBS News) – The coronavirus pandemic is a big headache for many people – literally. Neurologists around the country are seeing more patients complaining about worsening migraines during the pandemic.

Dr. Katherine Hamilton, director of the Penn Headache Program, says stress is just one factor. “Also just changing routine. The migraine brain likes things to be stable, regular, with the pandemic, things are thrown up in the air, like getting your regular sleep schedule, regular exercise,” she says.

If you’re getting more migraines, you may also want to take a close look at your work-from-home environment. “There’s certainly increased screen time and that can be a big migraine trigger. And being on a laptop all day can cause increased muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, which can cause tension headaches or can trigger migraines,” Dr. Hamilton says. She recommends finding ways to manage stress like practicing mindfulness.

The pandemic has meant big changes for Vicki Livolsi. She’s had to teach her fourth grade class from home with her own children also learning virtually. “My husband leaves, he’s working during the pandemic, so I’ve been just challenging this all on my own from six in the morning ‘til six at night,” Livolsi says.

Livolsi suffers from migraines, and her debilitating headaches have been increasing. “Stress is a huge trigger for me. I have had a migraine almost every day since we’ve started back to work and it is just – it just stays here,” she says.

Livolsi has been doing her best to try to unwind when she can. “Enjoying nature is one of my coping mechanisms. Getting outside has really helped me and it takes me away from all those stressors,” Livolsi says. She says Botox treatments and neck exercises are also working to lessen her migraines.

Doctors say patients may also be dealing with more migraines because typical treatments that require appointments such as acupuncture and physical therapy have also been interrupted in the pandemic.

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