London: Researchers have argued that ‘airplane headache,’ a form of pain that flares up during landing, should get more recognition in the medical world.
Travelling is a headache for many people, whether it’s by train, plane or automobile.
But the Italian researchers say the pain is apparently rather more acute when travelling by air for some people, the Daily Mail reported.
The head pain, which can be characterised by its severity and position on one side of the head and near the eye, was first reported in medical literature in 2004, with several dozen more cases documented in the following years.
The researchers are now suggesting that the ailment should be considered a new subtype of headache, putting forward a list of criteria doctors can use to diagnose it.
Lead researcher Federico Mainardi, of Giovanni e Paolo Hospital in Venice, called it “a recently described headache disorder that appears exclusively in relation to airplane flights, in particular during the landing phase.”
A group of 75 people with symptoms suggestive of airplane headache fitted the features of past cases - severe pain on one side of the head that was usually limited to the time the plane was landing.
The pain was almost always short-lived, at less than 30 minutes for 96 per cent of the people.
“Is (airplane headache) a unique disorder? I think it is. But others might disagree,” said R. Allan Purdy, a neurologist and professor at Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax, Canada, who wrote an editorial on the report.
“Nobody knows what causes it. Nobody knows how many people have it. Nobody knows what treatments work,” he added, but noted that classifying it as a distinct disorder would allow it to be studied more directly.
However, there were limitations to the report including the fact that nearly all the individuals involved were assessed long-distance, without a physical examination.
The trigger of the headaches is unknown. One theory is that it may be related to pressure changes in the sinus cavities, based on the idea that passengers with colds or sinus infections can get severe headaches during take-off or landing.
Mainardi’s team said airplane headache is distinct from migraines and other well-known types.
According to Purdy, it doesn’t appear to be a serious or life-threatening disorder.