Medication Overuse Headache: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

man with headache in bed

What is Medication Overuse Headache?

Medication Overuse Headache, or MOH, maybe a new or unfamiliar term for those of you managing your migraine symptoms, so what exactly is MOH? MOH is a headache that results from the frequent use of acute medicines or painkillers, such as triptans, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opiates, and paracetamol. It seems pretty unfair to hear that the drugs that are meant to help treat your migraine may actually be responsible for making it worse, so how and why does this happen?

For many patients, their journey with headaches begins with self-management using over-the-counter painkillers, this may then progress to seeking the help of a general practitioner who may prescribe stronger analgesics, antiemetics, triptans, and preventive medications. It is not uncommon for migraine sufferers to have tried a wide range of pharmacological interventions to manage their headaches leading to the presentation of MOH.

The causes of MOH

While the biology behind MOH is not entirely understood, many researchers believe that repeat consumption of medications can make your brain more sensitive and subsequently more susceptible to headache pain. The International Headache Society (IHS), a group of the world’s leading headache researchers and doctors, define a patient who has a pre-existing headache disorder and experiences a headache on 15 or more days per month, whilst regularly using migraine drugs for more than three months as having MOH. If you are regularly using drugs such as paracetamol, aspirin, or NSAIDs perhaps you should consider the possibility that they may actually be making your migraine worse, rather than better?

Treatment Options

gammaCore is a non-drug treatment option that can be used as both a daily migraine preventive tool and as an acute rescue treatment when required. A pilot study conducted by Professor Innocenzo Rainero and his team at the University of Torino evaluated the safety and efficacy of non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) using gammaCore in patients with chronic migraine and medication overuse headache. During the detoxification period and in a six-month follow-up period, the researchers found that the headache response rate was 68%, with 36% of patients experiencing pain relief. Most relevant to MOH, the researchers observed a highly significant (p<0.001) reduction in the use of acute drug treatment.

gammaCore offers a compelling mechanism of action, proven effectiveness, and an exceptional safety profile established in thousands of patients. So, if you have, or think you may have, MOH then gammaCore could be an attractive next treatment strategy for you to try?

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