‘Space headaches’ are a literal pain for astronauts. Why do they happen? | Space

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Spaceflight can be a real headache — literally. Since the days of the Apollo program, astronauts have reported experiencing head pain during their stint in microgravity. And many of them had never dealt with recurrent headaches on Earth. It seems that something about space travel sometimes triggers migraine or tension headache–like symptoms, including pain, sensitivity to light and occasionally nausea.

Until recently, though, these reports were largely sporadic and anecdotal. Now a new study, published in Neurology on March 13, demonstrates that these mysterious “space headaches” are actually quite common. Researchers analyzed data from 24 astronauts who kept logs while on multi-week-long space expeditions, as well as retrospective health data from 42 astronauts who went on space missions prior to being studied. They found that within the first seven days of leaving Earth, headaches weren’t just occasional inconveniences — they were the norm. “Almost every person [surveyed] in space suffered from a headache in that first week,” says Ron van Oosterhout, a neurologist at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and co-author of the new paper.

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