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New study finds smartphone users take more pain medication for headaches

New study finds smartphone users take more pain medication for headaches
PHOTO: Unsplash

New research has found that those who suffer from headaches appear to be more likely to take pain medication if they also use a smartphone.

Carried out by researchers at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, the preliminary study looked at 400 people in India who all had a primary headache condition, which includes migraine, tension headache and other types of headache that are not due to another health condition.

The participants were asked about their smartphone use and their headaches, with 206 of the participants reporting that they were smartphone users while 194 were non-users.

The findings, published in Neurology Clinical Practice, an official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, showed that the participants who did not use smartphones tended to be older, have a lower education level and a lower socioeconomic status than those who did use smartphones.

The team also found that whether participants used a smartphone or not, it appeared to have no effect on how often the participants had a headache, how long the headaches lasted, or how severe they were, with the researchers finding no difference between the two groups.

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However, the researchers did find that of those who used a smartphone, 96 per cent took pain-relieving drugs compared to 81 per cent of non-users and took an average of eight pills per month compared to five pills per month for non-users.

The smartphone users also reported getting less relief from the medication, with 84 per cent saying the medication brought them moderate or complete relief of headache pain, compared to 94 per cent of those who didn't use a smartphone.

The researchers point out that the study does not show that smartphone use causes users to take pain medication and find less relief from, it only shows an association.

The study also had limitations, such as not following the participants over a period of time.

However, study author Deepti Vibha, DM, commented that "While these 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."

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Heidi Moawad, MD, of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio, also commented on the findings in an editorial which accompanies the study, saying "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. 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."

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