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Chronic Daily Headache

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Chronic daily headache refers to headaches that occur for more than 15 days a month. There are lots of different types of chronic daily headache.

These are:

• Chronic migraine, status migrainosus (a migraine that lasts longer than 72 hours and does not respond to treatment)

• Chronic tension-type headache (headache without the vomiting or photosensitivity that accompany migraine lasting 15 days per month or more)

• New persistent daily headache (that develops rapidly and does not go away for several months, possibly the result of a viral infection)

• Medication overuse headache (result from taking pain medication for an extended period of time and is a rebound reaction of the body)

• Chronic cluster headache (have no remission period) Normally cluster headaches occur at specific times of the year and then stop.

• Hemicrania continua (headache on one side of the face or head with other symptoms such as swollen eyes and runny nose) The headache can occur daily and last as long as six months before a remission.

• Occipital neuralgia (headache at the base of the skull caused by compression of the occipital nerves) Pain and pressure is felt at the neck and the back of the head, which may radiate to the forehead. It isn’t usually severe but it is constant with brief periods of remission.

What Treatments are there?

The type of treatment depends on the type of headache you have, but there are many options:

Triptan Tablets (or injection)
Triptan tablets or injections constrict enlarged blood vessels thought to be responsible for migraines and are taken during a migraine to stop it. This medication can also be used for other types of headaches such as cluster headaches.

Stopping Medication
If you have medication overuse headache you will have to stop all your headache pills and triptans. It can take anything from one to 12 weeks after ceasing medication for the headaches to resolve. It is best to do this with the advice and support of your doctor. If you are suffering a lot from the withdrawal, your doctor may be able to give you a different type of medication provided it is not the same class you are addicted to.

Anti-Seizure Medication
Drugs such as Topamax or Gabapentin that are used to treat epilepsy are sometimes used to treat intractable headache by affecting the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals. Antidepressants also do the same thing.

Indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory drug has been used to treat intractable migraine.

This is a drug available as a self-administered injection or nasal spray. It is a fast acting painkiller.

Anaesthetic Blocks
If you have occipital neuralgia, local anaesthetic and steroid injected into the affected areas. This will numb the headache for up to six months.

If your headache has a cervicogenic origin, then there are surgical procedures such as spinal fusion have been shown to help some patients.


Clinical Summary, Status migrainosus. Web. 4 November 2011. http://www.medlink.com/medlinkcontent.asp

NINDS Hemicrania Continua Information Page and NINDS Occipital Neuralgia Information Page, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Web. 4 November 2011. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/hemicrania_continua/hemicrania_continua.htm

Medication-overuse Headache, Patient UK. Web. 4 November 2011. http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Headache-Medication-Induced.htm

New Daily Persistent Headache, National Headache Foundation. Web. 4 November 2011.

Cluster Headaches, Bupa. Web. 4 November 2011. http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/c/cluster-headache

Neck surgery for cervical spine disorders found to alleviate associated headaches, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Press Release, 3rd August 2009. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-08/aaoo-nsf080309.php

Reviewed November 4, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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