Medication overuse headaches (MOH) are commonly suffered, and often precede diagnosis of chronic headaches.
What is a MOH?
Medication overuse headaches are a chronic headache that usually develops from administering too much pain medication for an acute attack. Most commonly, this occurs in patients who suffer from migraine or tension type headaches, but it can happen in any form of headache. Research has found that “too much” tends to be taking the medication 2-3 times weekly. Many people are aware that they are taking too much medication but do not know that it can make their headaches worse.
Examples of these types of medication include:
- Triptans (i.e. Imigran, Zomig, Naramig, Maxalt, Relpax)
- Opiates (i.e. codeine, morphine)
- Simple painkillers (i.e. paracetamol)
- Combination painkillers (i.e. Endone, Mersyndol, Panadeine Forte)
- Ergotamine (i.e. Cafergot, no longer available in Australia)
- Caffeine-containing medications (i.e. Panadol Extra)
Normally, patients will notice an increase in frequency, duration and intensity of their headaches, after daily medication use for years. It often gets to a point where by the patient has a fear of experiencing severe headaches so takes the medication in prediction of a headache, despite the medications not actually providing any benefit. It is now known that people who overuse acute pain medications are less responsive and less predictive to other treatments.
Treatment for MOH
As clearly indicated above, it is really important that medication is used on a need only basis and avoided in the case of headaches to prevent the pathway to chronic pain.
It is important to note that when medication use stops, the severity and frequency of headaches generally decreases, at this point other treatment methods can be explored. When coming off acute medication, it is important to consult your health professional as some medications may cause withdrawal symptoms.
If you would like to discuss medication free treatment options, or have any questions regarding the above information, please contact us on 1800 HEADACHE or [email protected]