Study: Chronic Migraine is Disabling and Severely Affects the Ability to Lead a Productive Life

The National Headache Foundation‘s American Migraine Prevalence & Prevention Study data have been reanalyzed to reveal just how debilitating chronic migraine is. Chronic migraineurs have migraine episodes at least 15 days a month and most have pain every day. Approximately one million people -– mostly women -– have chronic migraine.

Key findings of the study, from a NHF press release:

Chronic migraine remains a largely under-diagnosed and under-treated medical condition.

While the vast majority of individuals with chronic migraine (87.6%) had sought care from a healthcare professional, just 20.2% of those with chronic migraine received a diagnosis of chronic migraine, chronic daily headache or transformed migraine. Another nearly 14% were told that they had rebound headache or medication overuse headache.

Migraine-specific acute treatments were used by 31.6% of respondents with chronic migraine. Almost half (48%) of the individuals with chronic migraine were satisfied with their acute therapies. A third of those with chronic migraine (33.3%) were currently using preventive medications.

Although most individuals with chronic migraine sought medical care for this disorder, the majority did not receive specific acute or preventive medications.

One in five chronic migraine sufferers cannot work due to the severity of their condition.

Over a 3-month period, 8.2% of the chronic migraineurs missed at least 5 days of work and school. Further, slightly more than a third (33.8%) of these sufferers reported at least 5 days of significant reduction in productivity during the same time frame.

Chronic migraine severely impacts one’s ability to lead a productive life.

More than half of those with chronic migraine (57.4%) missed at least 5 days of household work, and 58.1% reported a reduction in productivity in household work for at least 5 days within the last three months.

Chronic migraineurs also reported missing out on at least 5 days of family activities within the three month period.

“With one in five chronic migraine sufferers not being able to work due to the severity of their condition, the human and economic costs to these patients, their families and their employers are staggering,” said Suzanne E. Simons, Executive Director, National Headache Foundation. “This report shows there is much work to be done to help them get the proper diagnosis and treatment they need to be able to lead productive lives.”

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Clinical Trials for Treating All Sorts of Headache Disorders

ClinicalTrials.gov is the place to go if you’ve considered participating in a clinical trial for your headache disorder, These are just the latest in 142 headache studies recruiting participants or will be recruiting soon.

Nearly every headache disorder is represented: cluster, tension-type, post-traumatic, migraine, cervicogenic, lumbar-puncture, medication overuse (rebound)…. Treatments range from medication and surgery to diet, coping skills training, relaxation, meditation, yoga, exercise… Again the list goes on.

The diverse collection of current studies include:

Even if you’re not interested in any of these studies, checking the government’s clinical database regularly may turn up something new that works for you. Searching for “headache” gets the most results, but you can also search by specific headache type. For example, there are 74 active studies on migraine and seven on cluster headaches.

Don’t Miss This Headache Diary

Guest Post by How to Cope With Pain Blogger

One of the great things about blogs is sharing helpful, cool sites and gadgets you find. Sharing with others makes all our journeys easier and no one has to “reinvent the wheel” on her own. In that light, I came across this headache diary, which looks great for tracking headaches, including details like date, time, location of pain, type of pain, etc.

Have you ever used it? Do you use something else? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

The writer of this post blogs anonymously as she is a practicing psychiatrist. Her practice focuses mostly on patients with chronic pain. Having had chronic pain herself, her practice and blog reflect a deep understanding of its challenges.

Migraine Linked to Blood Clots in Veins

People with migraine may be more likely to develop blood clots in their veins than those without, according to a study published today. Called venous thrombosis or thromboembolism, the blood clots can lead to strokes. Researchers speculate this is why people with migraine have a greater risk of stroke.

Studies of stroke and migraine implicate only people who have visual auras with their migraines. I wonder what migraine types the blood clot study participants had.

From Science Daily:

Of the [574] participants, 111 people had migraine. A total of 21 people with migraine also had one or more instances of venous thrombosis, or 19 percent. In comparison, 35 people without migraine had the condition, or 8 percent.

Researchers do not know why migraine and venous thrombosis are linked. One theory is that the blood of people with migraine may be more prone to clotting.

The study also found that people with migraine are not more likely to have hardening or narrowing of the arteries, which is contrary to a current theory.

Chronic Daily Headache Prevention: Why is it so Difficult?

puzzle“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps my chronic daily headaches.” How many times have you uttered something similar? A HealthTalk Q & A gives some common reasons why:

  1. Medication overuse (rebound) headaches
  2. Failure to treat a co-existing medical condition such as depression or a sleep disorder
  3. Unrecognized medication-induced headaches, such as might occur from cholesterol drugs, proton-pump inhibitors for GERD, and anti-depressants
  4. Failure to investigate the possibility of relatively rare causes of headaches such as abnormalities at the base of the skull and top of the spine (craniocervical junction), intracranial hypotension (low-pressure headache), sinus abnormalities, and food or environmental allergies

Sadly, none of these reasons explain my chronic daily headaches. How about you?

photo by Erik Araujo

Invisible Illness: Strength Through the Struggle

Guest Post by How to Cope With Pain Blogger

The writer of this post blogs anonymously as she is a practicing psychiatrist. Her practice focuses mostly on patients with chronic pain. Having chronic pain herself, her practice and blog reflect a deep understanding of its challenges. –Kerrie

As we all know, there are many challenges and difficulties when living with an invisible illness. However, the experience can also allow wonderful attributes such as patience, strength, humility, trust and perseverance to flourish. Encouraging these virtues –- also invisible– to grow within us is a way to take advantage of adversity

Patience is needed to wait for healing, to respect your own and others’ limitations, and to learn to live with chronic illness.

Strength is needed to carry the burden of illness, to be stoic for others when necessary, and to stand up for yourself.


Illness can teach us humility, that we have limits, that we do get sick, and that we need to learn to ask for help.

Illness can teach us trust, trusting others, trusting ourselves, and trusting in our spiritual beliefs.

Perseverance is needed to stick with treatments, to tolerate pain, and to live fully despite illness.


Thanks to Simon Davison (patience) and Lollie-Pop (strength) for the photographs at Flickr.

“Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors When You’re Chronically Ill”: Presentation by the ChronicBabe Editrix Today

Check out ChronicBabe Editrix Jenni Prokopy’s National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week presentation at 3 p.m. Eastern time this afternoon — and call with your questions. You can listen online or call in. The presentation will be archived in case you miss the live event.

The details from ChronicBabe:

national invisible illness awareness week Here’s the scoop: To hear my presentation tomorrow, starting at 2pm Central time, you can either use the Blog Talk Radio player to log in and listen (there’s nothing to download) or you can simply call (347) 202-0072 and hear me speak about “Overcoming Self-Defeating Behaviors When You Are Chronically Ill.”

Yea, I know, the title sounds kind of dull. But my presentation will be anything but. You’ll hear me talk about strategies I’ve used to kick my own rear end into gear when I’m feeling down, and you’ll leave with tons of advice you can start using immediately to boost your outlook, productivity and spirit! And at the end of the presentation, you can call in with questions and I will happily answer as many as we can cram in to the hour. (Use the same phone number listed above to call with questions.)

Before you listen in, start by reading these instructions for conference attendees which explain how Blog Talk Radio works. Then check out the speaker list to see who else you want to hear. (Please note: there are different phone numbers for each speaker!) There are more conference listening tips here and links to the live shows as they are presented.