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Are strokes and migraines related?
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I consistently get a headache after using my cell phone. Specifically, when I talk on my phone for as little as 30 seconds, I get a headache on the same side of my head as where I placed my phone. It is usually above the ear, but it can be more towards the back or front of my head. The headache usually lasts from 15 minutes to 1 hour, and this happens every single time I call. I have tried three different phones, and the same thing occurs -- only if I use a corded headphone to my cell phone can I avoid the headache. Should I be concerned about this, or is this not a major concern?
I should say that the headaches can last several hours. Other radio emitting devices can also cause the headaches, such as a bluetooth headset. Other info - 26 yrs old, male, in good health, no other symptoms and no medications, no other history of headaches or migraines, and no family history of such either.
Well, this is a very interesting and quite well researched topic.
I have added a large and important piece of research on this topic published in the BMJ..it is worth reading (if only the abstract)...the bottom line is that psychological factors are very important. In other words, believing you will get a headache in a certain situation is often enough to trigger a headache!
In my patients, I often find that increased cell phone use happens when they are under more pressure and stress...is this true for you?
Have you used our headache diagnosis program?
By the way...you may or may not know about the research that did not find an association between cellphone use and brain tumors:-
The first abstract deals with this.
Hope that helps
PS:- We added a link to the full article on our main headache information page
Cellular phone use and brain tumor: a meta-analysis.
Kan P, Simonsen SE, Lyon JL, Kestle JR.
Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Utah, 100 N. Medical Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84113-1100, USA.
BACKGROUND: The dramatic increase in the use of cellular phones has generated concerns about potential adverse effects, especially the development of brain tumors. We conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effect of cellular phone use on the risk of brain tumor development. METHODS: We searched the literature using MEDLINE to locate case-control studies on cellular phone use and brain tumors. Odds ratios (ORs) for overall effect and stratified ORs associated with specific brain tumors, long-term use, and analog/digital phones were calculated for each study using its original data. A pooled estimator of each OR was then calculated using a random-effects model. RESULTS: Nine case-control studies containing 5,259 cases of primary brain tumors and 12,074 controls were included. All studies reported ORs according to brain tumor subtypes, and five provided ORs on patients with > or =10 years of follow up. Pooled analysis showed an overall OR of 0.90 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.81-0.99) for cellular phone use and brain tumor development. The pooled OR for long-term users of > or =10 years (5 studies) was 1.25 (95% CI 1.01-1.54). No increased risk was observed in analog or digital cellular phone users. CONCLUSIONS: We found no overall increased risk of brain tumors among cellular phone users. The potential elevated risk of brain tumors after long-term cellular phone use awaits confirmation by future studies.
OBJECTIVE: To test whether people who report being sensitive to mobile phone signals have more symptoms when exposed to a pulsing mobile signal than when exposed to a sham signal or a non-pulsing signal. DESIGN: Double blind, randomised, within participants provocation study. SETTING: Dedicated suite of offices at King's College London, between September 2003 and June 2005. PARTICIPANTS: 60 "sensitive" people who reported often getting headache-like symptoms within 20 minutes of using a global system for mobile communication (GSM) mobile phone and 60 "control" participants who did not report any such symptoms. INTERVENTION: Participants were exposed to three conditions: a 900 MHz GSM mobile phone signal, a non-pulsing carrier wave signal, and a sham condition with no signal present. Each exposure lasted for 50 minutes. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The principal outcome measure was headache severity assessed with a 0-100 visual analogue scale. Other outcomes included six other subjective symptoms and participants' ability to judge whether a signal was present. RESULTS: Headache severity increased during exposure and decreased immediately afterwards. However, no strong evidence was found of any difference between the conditions in terms of symptom severity. Nor did evidence of any differential effect of condition between the two groups exist. The proportion of sensitive participants who believed a signal was present during GSM exposure (60%) was similar to the proportion who believed one was present during sham exposure (63%). CONCLUSIONS: No evidence was found to indicate that people with self reported sensitivity to mobile phone signals are able to detect such signals or that they react to them with increased symptom severity. As sham exposure was sufficient to trigger severe symptoms in some participants, psychological factors may have an important role in causing this condition.
Full article (split over a few posts)
To test whether people who report being sensitive to mobile phone signals have more symptoms when exposed to a
The recent uptake of mobile phones has been accompanied by some concern about possible health risks.1 In the general population, the health effects most often attributed to mobile phone use are non-specific symptoms. Excluding sensations of mild warmth, the most commonly reported symptoms are headache, burning, dizziness, fatigue, and tingling.2 Mechanisms to explain these phenomena remain speculative, and although the pulsing nature of “global system for mobile communication” (GSM) signals has been suggested to be partly to blame,3 experiments that have exposed healthy adults to GSM signals under blind conditions have not found any significant effects on the reporting of symptoms.4
Whether a subgroup of people who are more sensitive to GSM exists remains unclear. Of particular interest are people who report symptoms almost every time they use a mobile phone.5 This phenomenon falls within the broader category of “electromagnetic sensitivity,” a medically unexplained condition in which non-specific symptoms are reported after perceived exposure to any of a wide range of electrical devices, including mobile phones, visual display units, and power lines. The prevalence of self reported electromagnetic sensitivity in the United Kingdom is unknown, but community studies in Sweden and California put the figure at between 1.5% and 3%.6,7 Provocation studies that have exposed people who report electromagnetic sensitivity to electromagnetic fields under blind conditions have so far failed to provide any good evidence linking the presence of electromagnetic fields to severity of symptoms.8 Several authors have therefore suggested that psychological mechanisms may be more relevant in causing the condition.9
We tested whether people with self reported sensitivity to GSM would experience greater headache severity after double blind exposure to a GSM signal than after exposure to a sham signal. Secondary outcomes included other symptoms and ability to discriminate GSM from sham signals. We also tested whether a pulsing signal resulted in greater reporting of symptoms than a non-pulsing signal.
In this within participants study, we exposed people who reported adverse reactions to mobile phone signals (sensitive group) or who did not report any such effects (control group) to three conditions: a signal mimicking that produced by a 900 MHz GSM mobile phone, an unpulsed continuous wave signal, and a sham exposure with no signal present. Our Clinical Trials Unit determined the order in which these conditions occurred for each participant on enrolment, by using a computerised random numbers generator and counter-balancing within blocks of six consecutive participants.
Exposures were double blind—that is, neither participants nor researchers were told which type of exposure was present in which testing session. The controls for our exposure equipment allowed for 256 possible settings, of which 15 had been randomly allocated to each condition. Only the Clinical Trials Unit knew which settings related to which exposure. For the first nine control participants and six sensitive participants (11.5% of all participants), Clinical Trials Unit staff told researchers which setting to use on the morning of each exposure. Given the theoretical possibility that the meaning of a setting might eventually be inferred by observing several participants' reactions to it, for the remaining sessions Clinical Trials Unit staff entered the codes and then obscured them from the researchers with opaque tape.
To be eligible for the sensitive group, participants had to report often experiencing headache-like symptoms within 20 minutes of using a 900 MHz GSM mobile phone. Participants who did not attribute any symptoms to mobile phone signals were eligible for the control group. We excluded people who were aged under 18 or over 75, were pregnant, had a psychotic illness, were currently using antidepressants, or reported severe symptoms at baseline while in our testing room. We recruited participants through mailshots organised by an electromagnetic sensitivity support group, advertising by interested clinicians and by our funding body, posters in general practitioners' surgeries, adverts and articles in the press and specialist health publications, email circulars, and word of mouth.
We generated exposures by using the standard GSM handset system used within the UK Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme.10 The antenna for this headband mounted system was positioned slightly above and behind the left ear and within a few millimetres of the participant's scalp. Both GSM and continuous wave conditions produced a target specific absorption rate adjacent to the antenna of 1.4 W/kg, with an uncertainty of ±30%. For the sham exposure, a continuous wave signal was generated to ensure that the system heated up to the same degree as the active exposures but was diverted to an internal load instead of being transmitted through the antenna; only minimal leakage of this signal occurred (specific absorption rate < 0.002 W/kg).
We assessed severity of symptoms during exposure by using 100 mm visual analogue scales,11 anchored with the phrases “no sensation” and “worst possible sensation.” These scales measured headaches; nausea; fatigue; dizziness; skin itching, tingling, or stinging; sensations of warmth or burning on skin; and eye pain or dryness.
We collected other data at baseline, consisting of demographics and current or previous mobile phone usage. We also asked participants to record the frequency with which they experienced 11 common symptoms after a mobile phone call (never, 25% of calls, 50% of calls, 75% of calls, every call). We asked participants in the sensitive group about duration of illness and symptoms, how near a mobile phone needed to be before they could detect it, whether they considered themselves to have “electrosensitivity or sensitivity to electromagnetic fields,” whether they had sought treatment, and whether their sensitivity impaired their daily functioning.12
We sent written information to people who contacted us and screened them for eligibility. We invited those who provided verbal consent to attend our unit for three mornings. We instructed participants not to take recreational drugs for one week before attending; not to drink alcohol for 24 hours beforehand; and not to drink more than one cup of tea or coffee, take painkillers, or undertake strenuous physical activity or anything psychologically stressful on the morning of each visit.
Sessions began with a 30 minute adjustment period. During this time in session one, participants provided informed written consent and completed the various demographic questionnaires. At the end of these adjustment periods, we asked participants to complete baseline visual analogue scale measures. The exposure equipment was then attached and switched on for 50 minutes. Participants completed further visual analogue scale measures after 5, 15, 30, and 50 minutes. If a participant requested that an exposure be terminated early, visual analogue scales were administered immediately. All participants completed a final set of visual analogue scales 30 minutes after the end of each exposure. At this point we asked them to state whether they believed a signal had been present and their confidence about this (100 mm visual analogue scales from “complete guess” to “100% certain”). At least 24 hours after each session we contacted participants and asked them whether they had experienced any visual analogue scale symptoms in the 24 hours since exposure. We ascertained a score of 0 (no sensation) to 10 (worst possible sensation) for any symptoms that were reported, and we categorised participants scoring 5 or more as having experienced a “definite” symptom.
All testing took place between September 2003 and June 2005 in two rooms within King's College London. The rooms, which were lit by two table lamps, were not shielded against outside electromagnetic fields.
Sample size calculation
We based our sample size calculation on our ability to detect a change in headache severity within the sensitive group after 50 minutes of GSM exposure, using a two way analysis of variance with one between participants factor (sensitive v control) and one within participants factor (GSM v continuous wave v sham). On the basis of previous studies in healthy and electrosensitive participants,4,13 this analysis assumed that control participants would report a mean headache severity of 10 units in all three experimental conditions whereas sensitive participants would report a mean severity of 11.7 in the sham and continuous wave conditions, with standard deviations of 26.8. In the absence of any pre-existing data, we assumed correlations of r = 0.5 between conditions and that any effect of GSM in the sensitive group would be moderate—that is, an effect size of 0.5. Our calculation showed that to detect this effect as significant at the 5% level and with 80% power we would need 60 participants in each group. In practice, although these assumptions turned out to be reasonable, the nature of our data required us to adopt a different analytical strategy from that originally planned. As such, this calculation should be taken as indicative only.
To analyse symptom severity over time, we used generalised estimating equations.14 This approach was needed to accommodate the extremely positively skewed distribution of each response variable and to allow the inclusion of a suitable correlation structure for the repeated measures of each response. These models also allowed us to take into account differing lengths of exposure for participants who requested that an exposure be terminated early. The specific generalised estimating equations model fitted to each response used log(symptom severity+1) as the dependent variable, a gamma error distribution, and an exchangeable correlation structure. We used robust standard errors to judge the “significance” or otherwise of the explanatory variables included in the fitted models.14
We were contacted by 83 potential sensitive participants and 69 potential controls who met the inclusion criteria and provided verbal consent. Of these, 71 sensitive participants and 60 controls attended for their first testing session, and 60 in each group attended all three testing sessions and were included in our main generalised estimating equations analyses
For sensitive participants, the mean reported delay between beginning a call and onset of symptoms in everyday life was 6.5 (SD 6.5) minutes. For 48 people, symptoms usually resolved within two hours. All but one had been sensitive for at least a year (median 4 (interquartile range 2-5) years). Eighteen people reported that their sensitivity to mobile phones caused “definite” impairment or worse in at least one aspect of daily functioning, and 15 people reported having sought treatment for their condition. Thirteen people reported being sensitive to mobile phones at distances of one metre or more, and the same number reported having “electrosensitivity.” Sensitive participants reported headache-like symptoms in a mean of 70.4% of calls. The next most common symptoms were skin warmth or burning (43.8% of calls), difficulty concentrating (around 30%), and dizziness (20.8%). Very few control participants reported any symptoms in relation to mobile phone signals; the highest mean frequency was for skin warmth or burning (2.9%).
We found no evidence to indicate that self reported sensitivity to 900 MHz GSM mobile phone signals has a biological basis. Nor did we find any evidence to suggest that the pulsing nature of GSM contributes to these symptoms. These findings agree with the large majority of previous blind or double blind provocation studies for electromagnetic sensitivity, which have found no differences in the severity of symptoms elicited by active or sham exposure to electromagnetic fields.8
Did some inadequacy exist in our methods that might account for these “negative” findings? If it did, we are unaware of it. The exposure represented a relatively “worst case scenario” mobile phone call, using a high specific absorption rate and lasting almost eight times longer than the mean call length usually needed to trigger symptoms in our sensitive sample. Interference from participants' reactions to extraneous electromagnetic fields is also unlikely: after 30 minutes adjusting to our offices, only two participants reported baseline symptoms that might have masked any effects of exposure, and both were excluded. Finally, as we were able to detect changes in symptom severity over time as highly significant, the sensitivity of our visual analogue scales and our statistical techniques do not seem to have had any short-comings.
That symptom severity did increase during exposure is interesting. These symptoms were not trivial. Indeed, for some they were so severe that exposures had to be stopped early or the participants withdrew from the study. The confidence that sensitive participants had in their ability to discriminate active from sham signals also suggests that they experienced reactions similar to those encountered in real life, a finding also reported in previous provocation studies.8 That apparently realistic symptoms can be induced in provocation experiments, despite no differences being observed between active and sham conditions, suggests that the acute symptoms reported by sensitive people in everyday life may be the result of a nocebo phenomenon. Such phenomena have previously been observed in relation to a wide range of stimuli,15 including headaches induced by providing misleading information about the presence of electrical fields.16 The mechanisms governing nocebo effects need further study but seem to include conscious expectation of symptoms and the presence of negative affect,17,18 factors that are likely to be present whenever people who perceive themselves to be sensitive to mobile phones have to make use of the technology.
In terms of their clinical implications, these results do not suggest that attempting to reduce exposure to mobile phone signals will be a useful strategy for patients who report sensitivity to them. Although such interventions might be actively sought by patients and may even produce a short term reduction in symptoms mediated by a placebo effect,19 in the longer term a danger exists that they will reinforce a patient's view of himself or herself as being sensitive to electromagnetic fields and put him or her at risk of developing symptoms associated with other electrical stimuli. Instead, it may be better to encourage such patients to test alternative non-electromagnetic field related explanations for their symptoms by using principles derived from cognitive behavioural therapy.
Thank you for the interesting articles. To your question about stress and pressure -- I am under very low stress and pressure, and can't find a personal correlation in terms of when I'm stressed and when I get headaches from my cell phone.
Regarding the possibility that the condition is purely psychological, clearly my gut feeling would be that it is not the case, but in reality there's no way for me to know without subjecting myself to a formal test. I'm glad that at least there is no correlation b/t cell phones and brain tumors!
My own opinion on the articles you attached about other "sensitive" individuals is that they failed to prove that the individuals selected for the study are sensitive, but they did not go far enough to prove that people in general cannot be sensitive. I found another article that came to a conclusion to the contrary; I don't know how authoritative it is, but it is an interesting study.
I think that there has not been sufficient studies to really gain any significant insight into the phenomenon, whether real or psychological. If you know of any researchers actively investigating the subject in the US, and perhaps looking for patients, please let me know. Thanks.
Well thanks for the link.
If I had to choose between the 2 articles in terms of methodology and quality of the journal they are published in then I would favor the BMJ article.
In any case, I agree with you that there is probably some kind of a link..it could even be as simple as the way people tilt their head when speaking on a cell phone that triggers the muscle to generate pain on that side.
If I or any of our experts hear of any trials dealing with this in the US then I will be sure to pass the info on.
All the best
I'm getting the same headaches with a cellphone call that is within 10 feet distance. The pain is always on the same spot at the back of my head going down to the neck. It lasts from an hour to 2 depending on the duration of exposure. I don't believe it has something to do with stress or as my doctor diagnose it as a form of depression. Had my brain MRI for aneurysms and for any tumors results came out normal. What's worst is that I work in a handheld computer industry that incorporates cellular radios. My day consists of avoiding public places and constantly looking for cellphone users and keeping that 10-12 ft distance to avoid headaches. I found out about my EM hypersensitivity a few years ago while playing golf with a friend. I would notice I would get this pain on the back of my head and get nausia for no reason at all. I don't have a cellphone at that time but my friend had one and his kids would call often while we were sitting on the golf cart. It ruins my day most of the time but we had to play on (no wonder my golf handicap got worse
Most of my friends and relatives would try to not to use their cellphones or move away from me during calls. I don't think my doctor won't be able to help me right now as this condition has not yet been proven. But recently I found out quite a number of people are also having the same symptoms with EM (electro-magnetic) or radio waves from cellphones. I thought of designing an headgear similar to what Magneto character from X-Men movie was wearing as I'm getting frustrated with having to avoid cellphone users (getting a bit paranoid out there in public places). I do hope more sufferers would come out so more tests can be done and get real answers on the cause of headaches.
I've been going through these headaches and also pain in the back of my head (the area behind my ears) down to my neck for about 3 months now (same as hayupax ). I've gone through many tests (MRI, CT scan, xray), gone to 2 neurologists and they can't find anything wrong. I have another person who is telling me that this could be from to much of cell-phone/gadget usage, which makes sense to me.
I've been prescribed a cocktail of medicine that I don't feel comfortable taking but I do anyways because I feel there is nothing else to do. They don't help much (muscle relaxers, paracetamol, migrain preventers, anti-depressants, etc.).
What I want to ask you all is, how are we supposed to get rid of these headaches? Is it even possible to cure them? It's been difficult to go to work every day with this pain and they come and go as they please.
I would appreciate all the help or info that you guys have, and it's been good to find some people whom I think actually have the same thing as I do.
Hi, I am having the same problem- When ever i use the cell phone, it causes immediate headache for me..this headache lasts upto 8 hours some time...It makes working horrible for me at office. Please let me know of any remedy or prescription.
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