Elimination of Menstrual-Related Migraine Beneficially Impacts Chronification and Medication Overuse


  • Conflict of Interest: None

A. Calhoun, University of North Carolina, Dept. of Neurology, Campus Box 7025, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7025.


Objectives.— This study seeks to determine whether menstrual-related migraine (MRM) has a discrete, attributable impact on migraine chronicity and medication overuse.

Background.— Menstrual-related migraine can be a disabling headache on its own; but when seen in headache clinics, it is often enmeshed in the setting of chronic migraine (CM) and medication overuse headache (MOH). Whereas nonspecific migraine preventives bestow their benefit uniformly, hormonal preventives (HPs)—when they are successful—address a discrete hormonal mechanism. They confer no known benefit to migraines that are not hormonally triggered. This selective property of HPs could potentially isolate MRM and segregate its effect on the overall clinical picture.

Methods.— This is a retrospective review of 229 consecutive women seen in follow-up for hormonal prevention of MRM at an academic headache center. Patients kept standardized diaries from which separate menstrual-week (MW) and non-menstrual week (nonMW) headache indices were calculated and compared. Resolution of MRM was defined by reduction of the MW headache index to a score not exceeding the nonMW headache indices. Consumption of all acute and preventive agents used in the preceding month was tallied. We performed post-treatment comparisons of medication usage and headache characteristics among subjects in whom MRM was resolved and those in whom it was not resolved.

Results.— At baseline, CM was present in 92% of subjects, 72% of whom also met criteria for MOH. Resolution of MRM was achieved in 81% of subjects who were compliant with HP and was associated with reversion to episodic migraine (59% vs 18%, P < .001) and resolution of medication overuse (54% vs 20%, P < .001). Resolution of MRM was associated with significant decreases in per capita consumption of triptans, opioids, all acute agents, and migraine preventive medications.

Conclusions.— Resolution of MRM correlated not only with conversion of CM to an episodic pattern, but also with a significant reduction in medication usage. It offers preliminary evidence that hormonal regimens may have a beneficial role in prevention of MRM.