A practical approach to headache treatment

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1 Scopus citations


The World Health Organization cites migraine headache as one of the 20 most disabling medical conditions. This article focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of the primary headache disorders, with special emphasis on migraine, the headache most likely to bring patients to physicians and pharmacists. This review begins with the warning signs of the ominous headache, which, although rare, can herald a life-threatening condition. Clinical characteristics of the primary headache types, migraine, tension-type headache, and cluster headache, are described. Although many individuals believe their headaches are "sinus," or "stress or tension-induced," most of the characteristics of these types of headaches actually meet International Headache Society criteria for migraine. Treatments of primary headaches, including acute therapies, abortive agents, and prophylactic medications, are uniquely specific for each headache syndrome. Chronic daily headache patients compose only 4% of the population yet make up the largest percentage of patients who seek treatment at specialty headache centers. Medication-overuse headache, the syndrome in which medications taken for the relief of headache actually foster future headaches, offers a particular challenge to health care providers, as does narcotic use in headache therapy. Complementary and alternative treatments proven efficacious in the treatment of primary headache are also described.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-136
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pharmacy Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Natural product
  • Prophylaxis
  • Triptans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)


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