Pro divers are less headache-prone

Posted: 10/26/2011 in all marine news

Andrew M. Seaman – 

Despite concerns that water pressure and other stresses might promote headaches, professional scuba divers may actually get fewer of the painful attacks, overall, than other healthy people, say Italian researchers.

Published in the journal Headache, their study compared the number of “cephalalgia attacks” — headaches of all kinds — experienced by 201 male professional divers and a control group of healthy men who didn’t dive. The divers were about 30 percent less prone than controls to get headaches in general, and when they did, the divers got fewer headaches per month.

Though the study’s findings are limited by a small sample size, its lead author Dr. Roberto Di Fabio, a neurologist, thinks the results will help determine how diving affects professional divers.

Di Fabio speculated that the divers’ overall health could be one reason they experience fewer headaches. Or, he said, the diving itself may offer some protection.

“Exercise would be useful to make our brain less sensible to stress and avoid that even slight stimuli could trigger migraine crises,” Di Fabio told Reuters Health in an email. “Therefore, diving as well as other aerobic sports could help in reducing the number of attacks of migraine.”

Doctors have wondered whether the physical and mental stresses of diving might promote headaches or exacerbate the tendency of people who have migraines, for instance, to get more attacks.

High underwater pressure puts a person in danger while diving. Failing to ascend or descend properly can cause injury to vital organs as the gases within them compress or decompress. Improper diving techniques can also cause gas bubbles to form in the bloodstream — a condition known as the bends.

Divers are also known to display certain structural changes in their brain matter, and may regularly get tiny clots in the brain’s blood vessels as a result of the physical stresses of diving.

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