Medication Overuse Headache

Internship Opportunity!

Rate the National Migraine Centre Online!


  • Thanks – SCA Hygiene Products UK ltd
  • Thanks- Grange Park School’s Year 7
  • Corporate Fundraising
  • Easyfundraising – Book your summer holiday and raise funds for the Centre at no extra cost to you

 Alice’s Story

Alice talks about how the knowledge and experience of the doctor she saw at the National Migraine Centre was something she couldn’t find elsewhere.



Could your frequent headaches be due to medication overuse?

By Dr. Jud Pearson


Around 40% of patients attending the National Migraine Centre have issues with medication overuse headaches.  It is the commonest cause of chronic daily headache.  Migraine is known to be a genetic condition, and those with migraine genes are particularly susceptible to developing chronic headaches when painkilling medication is taken too frequently.

Medication overuse can occur in anyone using acute medication (painkillers or triptans,) to treat their symptoms on more than 2-3 days a week. Some patients have particularly long attacks of migraine, particularly around menstruation, which may need to be treated over 4 or 5 consecutive days, so we often average out the total number of days treated per month. If someone is using symptomatic treatment more than 12-15 days a month, the treatment itself may be affecting the frequency of headache. If this has occurred over three months or more, then the patient is likely to have medication overuse headache.  It is more common with medicines containing codeine, such as cocodamol or migraleve, but it can even occur with seemingly innocuous treatments bought over the counter, such as aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen.

We recognise that taking treatment early in a migraine attack can be more effective than waiting for the migraine to peak before treating it, however, this can lead to patients taking medication too frequently “just in case” today’s mild headache escalates into this afternoon’s migraine.  If you find that you are doing this often, then it may be time to seek medical advice before you develop medication overuse.  It is very useful to keep a diary of symptoms and painkillers taken. The National Migraine Centre headache diary has been specifically designed to record this information. It can be downloaded from our website here. Download your monthly migraine diary here.

The chronic headache resulting from medication overuse is often described as “featureless,” a constant dull ache with migrainous exacerbations, and can be disabling.  Patients have invariably had episodes of migraine in the past but the frequent medication use has blurred their symptoms into one long, chronic pain.  This quickly becomes a vicious circle, whereby the patient has to keep taking medication just in order to continue to function.  It is important to point out that medication overuse is a very common trap, but is nobody’s “fault.”  Nor are patients “addicted” to painkillers, it is just that the body expects a tablet to deal with the pain rather than suppressing pain signals with natural endorphins.

The diagnosis is only certain after the medication has been withdrawn and there is an improvement in the headache pattern. It takes around six weeks to come off acute medication and to let the body return to its baseline headache pattern. During the first couple of weeks off painkillers, the headaches can be worse, but after this there can be a striking improvement.  Little scientific study has gone into treating medication overuse headache, but the National Migraine Centre has years of experience in supporting patients as they come off acute medication. Your NMC doctor may recommend a course of a regular, long acting anti-inflammatory painkiller to reduce the symptoms as you withdraw from your other medications. Sometimes we use a daily preventative drug to do this. Botox is also licenced for the treatment of medication overuse headache, but has not been approved for use on the NHS for this indication.  It is an option that you can discuss with your doctor at the NMC. It can feel like quite a leap of faith to stop taking painkillers altogether, but with the right support and information, the results are dramatic.

Things to remember about medication overuse:
It’s not the patient’s fault.
It’s not an addiction.
Prevention is better than cure.
Keeping a diary of how often you take medication is very useful.

Treatments are available and can have dramatic results.

Internship Opportunity!


Kick-start your career at the only UK charity carrying out treatment, research, and education for migraine and cluster headache.
This administrative role is for a graduate to gain experience for six months and is an extremely varied full-time role covering reception duties, fundraising, social media, PR and Marketing and events. It is aimed at graduates from a variety of backgrounds who are prepared for an immediate start. The position is unpaid but expenses will be covered and training provided.

Please note the closing date for applications is 8th July 2016 (this may close earlier if we receive a high volume of applicants).

Download the Job Description Here.

If you are interested in this role, have excellent oral and written English then please send a CV and covering letter to

Rate NMC Online!

Facebook and Google both have a star rating review section for services, so that internet users can get an idea of what to expect from a company or organisation.

National Migraine Centre has pages on both sites, so if you can spare the time to write a few words about us and rate the service out of 5, please visit either of these pages (click on the underlined links above).

It is great publicity for us to have people talking about the centre online and the feedback helps us to ensure that the service is constantly improving. Thank you.

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SCA cake and logo

We wanted to say a big thank you to SCA Hygiene Products UK ltd who supported our charity this year and very kindly presented us with a £1,000 cheque to help us in our mission to treat all those that suffer from migraine.  Their staff members also helped contribute a further £41 to our cause.

To show our appreciation to SCA Hygiene Products we did a presentation to their employees and gave them information about the National Migraine Centre and advice on migraine and headaches. During the presentation we were presented with the beautiful cake above!

We are truely thankful to SCA Hygiene Products for this donation.

If you work for an organisation that you feel would benefit from a talk from us or would like to make the National Migraine Centre their ‘Charity of the Year’ then please give us a call on 020 7251 7806.


year 7 for website

Another big thank you to Grange Park School’s Year 7 who kindly held a cookie sale to raise funds for the National Migraine Centre.  They raised a total of £92.82.

If you work for a school or have children that go to school and would like to hold a fundraising event for us then please do get in touch by calling 020 7251 7806 or emailing

Corporate Fundraising

Corporate Fundraising

Some of our patients have been kind enough to nominate the Clinic for a donation from corporate charitable trusts. Most large employers and many smaller ones support charities in a variety of ways; examples include payroll giving, matched funding-schemes and ‘Charity of the Year’- awards. If any of you are employees of a company which runs such a scheme please consider us.

We also can arrange in house talks at your organisation, so if you work for a larger employer then please help us get in touch with Occupational Health.



Planning your summer holiday?  You can help us by collecting FREE donations when you book holidays and travel.

All you have to do is follow these three easy steps and you can help raise funds for the National Migraine Centre at no additional cost to you:

  1. Join– Head to
  1. Book– There are nearly 300 travel retailers on board, pick the one you want and get booking
  1. Raise– After you’ve made your booking, the retailer will make a donation to us at no extra cost whatsoever!


Alice’s story: how the National Migraine Centre’s doctors helped her


Alice talks about the expertise and sensitivity of the doctors at the National Migraine Centre and how they provided her with a tailored treatment plan.

Watch Alice’s story here.