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Acute and Interictal Allodynia in Patients With Different Headache Forms: An Italian Pilot Study


  • Carlo Lovati MD,

  • Domenico D'Amico MD,

  • Pierluigi Bertora MD,

  • Silvia Rosa MD,

  • Massimo Suardelli MD,

  • Enrico Mailland MD,

  • Claudio Mariani MD,

  • Genaro Bussone MD

  • From the Neurology Unit, Department of Clinical Sciences L. Sacco, University of Milan, Italy (C. Lovati, P. Bertora, S. Rosa, M. Suardelli, E. Mailland, and C. Mariani); Neurology Unit III, Department of Clinical Neurology, C Besta National Neurological Institute, Milan, Italy (D. D'Amico and G. Bussone).

  • Conflict of Interest: None

C. Lovati, U.O. Neurologia, University of Milan, L. Sacco Hospital, via G. B. Grassi 74, Milan, 20157, Italy.


Objective.— To investigate allodynia in patients with different primary headaches.

Background.— Many migraineurs have allodynia during headache attacks; some may have allodynia outside attacks; allodynia may also be associated with other primary headaches.

Methods.— A total of 260 consecutive primary headache patients presenting for the first time at a headache center, and 23 nonheadache controls answered written questions (subsequently repeated verbally) to determine the presence of acute and interictal allodynia.

Results.— We divided the patients into: episodic migraine (N = 177), subdivided into only migraine without aura (N = 114) and those sometimes or always reporting migraine with aura (N = 63); episodic tension-type headache (N = 28); chronic headaches (headache ≥15 days/month, N = 52), including chronic migraine, chronic tension-type headache, and medication-overuse headache; and other headache forms (N = 3). Acute allodynia was present in 132 (50.7%), significantly more often in patients sometimes or always suffering migraine with aura, and those with chronic headache forms, compared to patients with migraine without aura and episodic tension-type headache. Interictal allodynia was present in 63 (24.2%) patients, with significantly higher frequency in those having migraine with aura attacks than controls and common migraine patients.

Conclusions.— Allodynia is not specific to migraine but is frequent in all headache patients: acute allodynia was reported in half those interviewed and in over a third of patients in each headache category; interictal allodynia was reported by nearly 25%.