What is a Medication Overuse Headache?

For the 2-3 million of Americans who suffer from chronic migraines, medication is a necessity. It is just as important for the 5 million who experience a migraine on average once per month. A recent article from Practical Pain Management discusses how Medication Overuse Headache is causing physicians and migraine sufferers alike to rethink treatment methods.

Defining Medication Overuse Headache (MOH)

Also referred to as medication-induced headache, MOH refers to chronic headaches caused by the overuse of medications taken for headaches or migraines. If you are taking migraine medication more that 2-3 days per week, those headaches you are experiencing just may be MOH. It is most commonly diagnosed among those with primary headache disorders including:

  • Migraine
  • Cluster Headaches
  • Tension Headaches

Wait, what? A medication for a headaches or migraines can cause headaches?

Doctor Lawrence Robbins recently wrote about this conundrum in the March 2018 issue of Practical Pain Management. As a migraine sufferer starts to experience the symptoms of on oncoming migraine they will take medication. However, as the pain increases individuals often continue to take medication, taking more that the amount prescribed. And taking more medication than prescribed can lead to more frequent headaches as a side effect.

Diagnosis and treatment of MOH can be difficult


As you may have already guessed, diagnosing patients who suffer from migraines with MOH can often be difficult, requires a full headache history, and involves a certain number of medication use per month criteria. Another issue is that reducing medication intake is part of the testing and treatment process. In fact, treatment is requiring a case by case evaluation and will be an individualized treatment.

Factors in the Diagnoses of Medication Overuse Headache


If you suffer from migraines or headaches and find yourself taking any of the following medications 10 – 15 or more days of the month, you may be experiencing Medication Overuse Headache:


• Analgesics such as Acetaminophen, Aspirin,
• NSAIDS such as naproxen, ibuprofen, indomethacin
• Opioids such as oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, and tramadol
• Triptans such as Imitrex, zomig, and Maxalt
• Ergotamines

Consuming more than 200mg of caffeine can also be a contributing factor when diagnosing Medication Overuse Headache.

Headache & Migraine Specialists in Southwest Florida


If you suffer from migraines and use abortive medication 10-15 days per month, speak with your primary care physician. They will be able to refer you to a Neurologist who specializes in headache and migraine diagnosis and treatment. The Headache and Migraine Specialists of Neuroscience & Spine Associates of Southwest Florida understand the individualized nature of diagnosing and treating headache conditions.

Learn More About Our Headache Migraine Specialists

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