Posttraumatic Headache: Determining Chronicity

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Abstract

SYNOPSIS

In the headache literature, there exists a great deal of discrepancy regarding when posttraumatic headache (PTH) may be classified as chronic. Although chronic pain is usually described as pain persisting for longer than six months, many view chronic posttraumatic headache as persisting for more than two months, including the International Headache Society criteria. Observations made by Brenner and Friedman in 1944 have been repeatedly cited for this determination. Surprisingly, a review of this original source revealed that the term “chronic“ was never used when discussing posttraumatic headache over two months duration. The authors, in fact, suggested two months as an “arbitrary” dividing line. Recent studies suggest that many patients with PTH continue to improve or change over the first six months but start to plateau after that time. We feel six months serves as a better time indicator for defining chronicity in cases of posttraumatic headache. This would be more consistent with the current literature concerning chronic pain and the International Headache Society criteria for chronic tension headache.

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