„Space headache” may affect astronauts without migraines on Earth, new study finds

Outer space is often depicted in entertainment as an inhospitable place for the human body. However, new research shows that some of Earth's most common health conditions can also present problems for astronauts who spend long periods in space.

A new study has been published Neurology By Author WPJ van Oosterhout, MD, Ph.D., of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.During a spaceflight lasting more than 10 days, astronauts who have never experienced headaches before can develop migraines and tension-type headaches.

24 astronauts from the European Space Agency, NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency participated in the latest study. Each was assigned to International Space Station (ISS) missions lasting up to 26 weeks between November 2011 and June 2018.

According to the study's findings, nine astronauts reported never experiencing headaches, while three had headaches that interfered with daily activities in the past year. None of them had a history of recurrent headache or had been diagnosed with migraine. The results indicated that 22 astronauts experienced one or more headaches during a total of 3,596 days in space. 378 headache in flight.

To prepare for their mission, each astronaut underwent health screenings and completed a questionnaire about their headache history. Throughout the flight, they filled out a daily questionnaire for the initial seven days and a weekly questionnaire for each week of their stay on the ISS.

The researchers found that 92 percent of astronauts experienced headaches during flight, but only 38 percent experienced headaches before flight. Of all headaches, 90 percent are tension-type headaches and 10 percent are migraine headaches.

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During the study, the researchers noted that during the first week of spaceflight, headaches were more intense and resembled migraines. During this period, 21 astronauts experienced one or more headaches, for a total of 51 headaches. Of these, 39 were tension-type headaches, and 12 were migraine headaches.

None of the astronauts reported experiencing headaches during the three months following their return to Earth.

What causes some astronauts to get space headaches? Although there may be various factors, „Changes in gravity caused by spaceflight affect the function of many parts of the body, including the brain,” notes van Oosterhout, „The vestibular system, which affects balance and posture, must adapt to the conflict between signals. It expects to receive the actual signals it receives in the absence of normal gravity. ”


„This can lead to spatial motion sickness in the first week, in which headache is the most frequently reported symptom,” van Oosterhout said. „Our study shows that headaches during spaceflight also occur later and may be associated with increased intracranial pressure.”

Understanding and addressing the problem of headaches in space is important for many reasons, including safety, astronaut health and performance, and mission success. More importantly, it could provide researchers with new insights into understanding the potential limitations of human spaceflight, especially under the conditions astronauts must live in space for long periods of time. Gaining insight into how headaches occur in space is critical to planning and reducing health risks for future long-duration space tourism.

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Van Oosterhout and his colleagues To conclude A recent study „Further research is needed to unravel the underlying causes of space headaches and explore how such findings may provide insights into headaches on Earth. Also, since it is a major problem for many astronauts during space missions, more effective treatments must be developed to combat space headaches.”

Chrissy Newton is a PR professional and founder of VOCAB Communications. She hosts the Rebel Passion podcast, which can be found Debrief YouTube Channel. Follow her on X: @Chrissy Newton and at chrissynewton.com.

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