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Tweeters share their migraine pain in real time

"It's the first known study to show the instant and broad impact of migraine attacks on modern patients' lives by decoding manually each one of their individual attack-related tweets," said Alexandre DaSilva, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
By Brooks Hays   |   April 3, 2014 at 1:38 PM   |   Comments

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ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 3 (UPI) -- Humans have long understood commiseration to be cathartic. That's why many take to social media to share the specifics of their battles with migraine pain.

Twitter -- a place where many migraine sufferers find consolation and sympathy -- is also gold mine of information for health researchers.

"As technology and language evolve, so does the way we share our suffering," said Alexandre DaSilva, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry who studies headaches and orofacial pain.

To get a better understanding of how people are impacted by daily migraine pains, DaSilva and several of her students analyzed more than 21,741 headache-related tweets.

"It's the first known study to show the instant and broad impact of migraine attacks on modern patients' lives by decoding manually each one of their individual attack-related tweets," DaSilva said.

DaSilva said she and her students filtered out advertising, metaphor and unrelated migraine tweets. They then categorized each tweet to get a sense of who suffers from the throbbing headaches, what symptoms are like, where and when they occur, and how sufferers use social media to describe their pain.

The research overlapped with the conclusions of previous studies, but also turned up unique and interesting findings -- says DaSilva.

According to their analysis: 74 percent of migraine tweeters were female; migraine tweets peaked on Mondays; Americans accounted for 58 percent of migraine tweets; and 44 percent of tweeters said migraine symptoms negatively affected their mood.

The complete findings of DaSilva and her students were published this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.


[Journal of Medical Internet Research]

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