CONTROLLING PAIN: Relieving rebound headaches
Lori M. Towne RN, BSN

June 2007 
Volume 37  Number 6
Pages 54 - 54
  PDF Version Available!


Towne, Lori M. RN, BSN

QUESTION: A patient came to our ED recently requesting opioids for daily headaches that no longer respond to over-the-counter (OTC) analgesics. What's the best way to manage this kind of pain?

ANSWER: Your patient may be suffering from medication overuse headache (MOH), also known as rebound headache. Many health care providers fail to recognize this chronic headache syndrome, which occurs when a patient overuses OTC or prescription headache remedies to treat recurring tension or migraine headaches. If she takes the remedy daily or near-daily for more than 3 days per week, she can develop MOH. 1

A patient has MOH if she has a headache 15 or more days per month, her headaches have become markedly worse during the period of medication overuse, and the headaches resolve or revert to their previous pattern within 2 months of discontinuing the overused drug. 2,3

The pathophysiology of MOH isn't completely understood, but researchers have several theories. One is central ...

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